New cervical cancer test starts
AUSTRALIAN women will now no longer have to visit the doctor once every two years for a pap smear with a new, more effective screening test to be available from today that will screen women once every five years.
The new human papillomavirus (HPV) test will prevent up to 30 per cent more women from developing cervical cancer because it detects HPV, an early risk indicator for cervical cancer. The current Pap test detects cervical abnormalities after they occur.
The new test is more effective than the current Pap test so most women will only need to be tested every five years, instead of every two. The procedure to collect the sample is the same.
Women who are 25 years or older should have their first Cervical Screening Test two years after their last Pap test. If no HPV is detected, they can then move to a test every five years.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.
Around 80 per cent of Australian women who develop cervical cancer do not get screened regularly as recommended, or have never been screened.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the new test was a "great advance".
I think it is a great advance. There is a much less burden on women not having to come back every two years," Dr Murphy said.
"Trials done around the world shown that if you screen for the primary virus rather than looking at abnormal cells through a pap smear it can prevent 30 per cent more women from survivable cancers."
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Turnbull Government was committed to improving women's health.
"The combination of improved cervical screening and HPV immunisation programs is expected to dramatically reduce cervical cancer rates and save lives," Mr Hunt said.
"Australia was one of the first countries to roll out a national cervical cancer immunisation program using Gardasil. This vaccine protects young women from four strains of HPV."
Labor's opposition spokeswoman Catherine King said the new test - first announced in 2014 - was supposed to be available nationally in May so it was disappointing it had been delayed even further.
"While I'm pleased that Australian women will finally have access to this test, the cervical screening test should have been available six months ago. There have been delays and a lack of communication - it is absolutely appalling that the Turnbull Government has botched up something so important, and in the process delayed a cervical screening test which literally saves the lives of women around the country," Ms King said.
Professor Karen Canfell, Chair of the Cancer Screening and Immunisation Committee said that the introduction of the renewed cervical screening program is great news for women.
"We really are leading the world in cervical cancer prevention and early detection - but we also want to encourage eligible women to get tested," she said.
Women looking for more information about the new cervical cancer test can talk to their health professionals, visit www.cancerscreening.gov.au/cervical or call 13 15 56.