Cervical cancer screening participation key to closing gap

While Australia is on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women continue to experience a disproportionately higher burden of cervical cancer than other Australian women.

This NAIDOC Week (July 7-14), Cancer Council Queensland is urging Aboriginal and Torres Trait Island women to get up-to-date with their screening after a collaborative project between Cancer Council Queensland and Menzies School of Health Research revealed a consistent pattern of poorer cervical screening participation and related outcomes for Indigenous women is evident across all geographical areas in Queensland.*

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said increased participation in the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program among Indigenous women will allow earlier detection and subsequent treatment of high-grade cervical abnormalities, and in turn save more lives.

“Our researchers found that across Queensland the five-year participation rate for Indigenous women was about 30 per cent lower than for non-Indigenous women and the overall prevalence of high grade cervical abnormalities among Indigenous women was about twice that for non-Indigenous women,” Ms McMillan said.

“To achieve the elimination of cervical cancer, it’s vital that all eligible women participate in the National Cervical Screening Program and that girls and boys are vaccinated against HPV through the national HPV immunisation program.”

Ms McMillan said further research was needed to better understand and address barriers to participation in cervical screening among Indigenous women, noting the importance of having culturally-appropriate education and services accessible.

“Here at Cancer Council Queensland, we run programs targeted to disadvantaged communities and specifically with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health professionals,” she said.

“If we can empower people to be aware of the symptoms and causes of cancer and participate in cancer screening programs, we can find cancer at an earlier stage when outcomes are better and treatment options are more effective.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is more than two times that of non-Indigenous women, and mortality more than three times the non-Indigenous rate.

The National Cervical Screening Program enables women aged 25-74 to get screened every five years.

Cervical screening is for well women with no symptoms. Screening can find problems early, so that you can have the right treatment and live a healthy life. If you experience any symptoms, such as unusual bleeding or pain, you should see your general practitioner straight away rather than waiting to have your Cervical Screening Test.

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