Research update – Cervical cancer screening in Indigenous Australians 

Despite a nationally coordinated and publicly funded cervical cancer screening program, Indigenous women in Australia have higher rates of cervical cancer than other Australian women, and their survival outcomes are poorer.  

A collaborative project between Cancer Council Queensland and Menzies School of Health Research has revealed high levels of geographical variation in five-year participation rates of cervical screening, prevalence of high-grade cytologic abnormalities, and timely follow-up of abnormal Pap smears across Queensland, and found that this variation was particularly marked among Indigenous women.  

Indigenous women in South-East Queensland had consistently lower screening participation rates than the state average, while rates were higher than average in Far North Queensland for reasons that we do not yet understand. Even with this unexpected finding, screening participation and related cancer outcomes are consistently poorer for Indigenous women compared to non-Indigenous women across Queensland.

In collaboration with the Menzies School of Health Research, work is now planned to update these analyses with more contemporary data, and then investigate the key drivers of this geographical variation.  

This research project, led by Professor Peter Baade, will provide a better understanding of what is driving the poorer outcomes experienced by Indigenous women in this state. 

“This work is vital to help ensure that efforts aimed to reduce the inequalities faced by Indigenous women are guided by the best available evidence.” 

“Thanks to your support we have been able to develop the necessary analytical and geospatial capacity to undertake this type of project.”  

Professor Peter Baade, Senior Manager, Descriptive Epidemiology, Cancer Council Queensland