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Cervical cancer

The Cancer Institute NSW manages the NSW Cervical Screening Program under the National Cervical Screening Program.

The major risk factor for cervical cancer is persistent infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). Tobacco smoke also represents an additional risk to women.

The good news is cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable. Regular Pap tests can pick up the early warning signs that can be treated before cancer develops.

New screening test recommendations

The Federal Government has undertaken a review of the national cervical screening program to ensure it continues to be as effective as it can be. The recommended changes to screening procedures are not anticipated to come into effect before 2016, so it is still vital that women continue to have their Pap tests as soon as they are due.

You can find out more about these changes on the Cervical Screening NSW website.

Who should screen?

All women between the ages of 18 and 70 years and who have ever had sexual intercourse should have a Pap test every two years.  It is also important that women who have received the HPV vaccine continue to have regular two-yearly screening regardless of their age.

Since the introduction of population screening, we have made considerable inroads into the prevalence of cervical cancer.

The number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer declined 25.1 per cent in NSW between 1999 and 2008 and the number of deaths declined by 21.6 per cent during the same period.

However, there is always more work to do. Research shows 65 per cent of women in NSW diagnosed with cervical cancer do not have regular two-yearly screening.

We need to continue to raise awareness amongst women of the importance of regular screening so that we can continue to improve our cervical cancer outcomes.

Managing abnormal results

The NSW Pap Test Register, managed by the Cancer Institute NSW, ensures that women who return an abnormal test result receive the necessary follow-up care.

Managing an abnormal test result requires a coordinated approach from a number of different health professionals.

That's why the National Health and Medical Research Council has developed a set of guidelines for women and health professionals so that the best possible outcomes can be achieved.

'Peace of Mind'

'Peace of Mind' aims to increase awareness of the need for women to have regular cervical screening (Pap tests). The campaign encourages women aged 18-69 years to make an appointment for a Pap test every two years. The campaign objective is to increase screening participation with a particular focus on those women not screening at all during the recommended two-yearly interval.

The campaign acknowledges how awkward it can be for a woman to have a Pap test and compares having a Pap test to other awkward things women do. It also reinforces the need for women who have received the HPV vaccine to continue with regular Pap tests to protect against cervical cancer.

The 'Peace of Mind' campaign was originally developed by the Cancer Council Victoria based on research that indicated embarrassment as a significant barrier to women participating in regular cervical screening.

'Don't Just Sit There'

don't just sit there

'Don't Just Sit There' aims to increase awareness of the need for women to have regular cervical screening. The campaign encourages women 18-69 years to make an appointment for a Pap test with their doctor every two years.

The commercial demonstrates the difference between the feeling of being uncomfortable during a Pap test and the feeling of being uncomfortable during the treatments of cervical cancer which could involve chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. It also reinforces the need for regular Pap tests for women who may have been recently vaccinated against cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is a potentially fatal disease which is largely preventable if pre-cancerous cell changes are detected early enough and treated appropriately. Cervical screening, via two yearly Pap tests, is the most effective of all cancer prevention programs. The early detection of abnormal cell changes prevent around 90% of cervical cancers. Australia has the second lowest incidence of cervical cancer in the world among countries with comparable cancer registration systems. About two million Australian women have a Pap test for cervical cancer screening each year.

The 'Don't Just Sit There' campaign, originally developed by the Cancer Council Victoria in 2004, has helped increase screening rates in several states across Australia. The number of Pap tests conducted in NSW during the 2007 campaign period increased by 21% in comparison to the same period in 2006.

With the introduction of the National HPV Vaccination Program the campaign was revised in 2008 to  reinforce the need for women who have been immunised against HPV to continue to have two yearly Pap tests.

Following the success of the initial campaign in 2007 the campaign successfully reran in 2008 and 2009 and will run again in 2010.

'Don't just sit there' - 30 second television commercial