Response to D Brown from Cancer Council Victoria.
Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns regarding Pap testing. As an organisation we (Cancer Council Victoria) aim to provide clear information to women, in order for women to consent to – or opt out of – cervical screening in an informed way. We acknowledge that cervical cancer is rare in Australia – when compared with breast cancer, for example, and that Australia does commence screening at an earlier age and more often than other countries. However, we know that cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates are low because of the screening program. Research shows us that if incidence and mortality rates had remained at the levels they were before the screening program started 18 years ago, a further 2075 Victorian women would have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and a further 685 would have died. It also helps to reflect on cervical cancer at a worldwide level, where it is the second most common cancer for women, with more than 288.000 deaths each year – mostly in countries where there is no screening program. Pap tests aren’t perfect, no screening test is. But they can detect 90% of the most common cell changes which can lead to cervical cancer. National Health and Medical Research Council (2005) Guidelines for the Management of Asymptomatic Women with Screen-Detected Abnormalities recognises that for the most part, low grade abnormalities can be now be monitored and not referred immediately for colposcopy. This means that over time we will be seeing less Australian women referred for colposcopy. Thank you once more for sharing your opinion. We appreciate that everyone has different views on cervical screening, but we continue to promote the program because we believe it has real benefits for women.

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