Concern as Pap test rates drop

Sydney Morning Herald

Australia
Danny Rose, Medical Writer
August 24, 2010 – 6:04PM

AAP

Young women in Australia are shunning the uncomfortable, but potentially life-saving, Pap test.

The test, which can identify the warning signs for cervical cancer, has seen a significant drop-off in use by women aged 25 to 29, a Victorian-based study has revealed.

PapScreen Victoria said the national roll-out of the Gardasil vaccine might have lulled young women into a false sense of security and made it easier for them to opt out of an admittedly “awkward” test.

“It is possible that many women believe they are fully protected against cervical cancer once they’ve had the vaccine,” PapScreen’s manager Kate Broun said.

“In fact, it only protects against the two types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers.”

Ms Broun is urging all women aged between 18 and 70 and who have ever been sexually active to book a Pap test if they were overdue.

It should be “at the top of their to-do list even if they have had the cervical cancer vaccine”, she said.

PapScreen Victoria’s research found that the proportion of young women having Pap tests every two years, in line with national guidelines, had fallen by almost 10 per cent since 1996-97.

By comparison, cervical screening rates amongst some groups of older women had increased by the same amount over the period.

In 2008-09, 61 per cent of Victorian women aged between 20 and 69 had a Pap test, the lowest proportion for a decade and a five per cent drop from a high of 66 per cent in 2000-01.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.