You may have seen the good news recently about cervical cancer. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), cervical cancer rates in Australia are at an all-time low thanks to our fantastic National Cervical Screen Program (NCSP). In fact, since the Pap test initiative was implemented in 1991, the incidence and mortality rates of the disease have halved.
So what does this actually mean? Well in Victoria alone, if incidence rates had remained the same as they were in 1990 - the year before the screening program was introduced - an additional 2,277 women would have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. That equates to saving two Victorian women from being diagnosed with the disease every week.
I think we can all agree this is a pretty incredible result, particularly in such a relatively short time frame. Based on these figures, it's safe to assume most women would be jumping over themselves to get regular Pap tests, right?
Wrong. Less than two thirds of Australian women participate in regular cervical screening as recommended under the NCSP. The guidelines state that all women between the ages of 18 and 70, who have ever been sexually active, have a Pap test every two years, yet only 62% of us are listening. Why?
In 2009, PapScreen Victoria commissioned a survey to find out the common barriers to screening for the average Victorian woman. The most common response was ‘embarrassment' with ‘feeling awkward' and ‘uncomfortable' not far behind.
Come on ladies - harden up!! Are one in three of us really willing to risk developing cervical cancer just to get out of a few minutes of minor awkwardness? I think it's time for some of us to reassess our priorities.
Nine out of ten Victorian women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have never had a Pap test, or have not undergone two-yearly screening as recommended. In other words, 90% of cervical cancer diagnoses could be avoided if all women had regular Pap tests as instructed.
So come on girls, what's a little awkwardness for a lot of peace of mind!!
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