Cervical cancer screening participation key to closing the gap

While Australia is on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women continue to experience a disproportionately higher burden of cervical cancer than other Australian women.

This NAIDOC Week (July 7-14), Cancer Council Queensland is urging Aboriginal and Torres Trait Island women to get up-to-date with their screening after a collaborative project between Cancer Council Queensland and Menzies School of Health Research revealed a consistent pattern of poorer cervical screening participation and related outcomes for Indigenous women is evident across all geographical areas in Queensland.*

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said increased participation in the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program among Indigenous women will allow earlier detection and subsequent treatment of high-grade cervical abnormalities, and in turn save more lives.

“Our researchers found that across Queensland the five-year participation rate for Indigenous women was about 30 per cent lower than for non-Indigenous women and the overall prevalence of high grade cervical abnormalities among Indigenous women was about twice that for non-Indigenous women,” Ms McMillan said.

“To achieve the elimination of cervical cancer, it’s vital that all eligible women participate in the National Cervical Screening Program and that girls and boys are vaccinated against HPV through the national HPV immunisation program.”

Ms McMillan said further research was needed to better understand and address barriers to participation in cervical screening among Indigenous women, noting the importance of having culturally-appropriate education and services accessible.

“Here at Cancer Council Queensland, we run programs targeted to disadvantaged communities and specifically with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health professionals,” she said.

“If we can empower people to be aware of the symptoms and causes of cancer and participate in cancer screening programs, we can find cancer at an earlier stage when outcomes are better and treatment options are more effective.”

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is more than two times that of non-Indigenous women, and mortality more than three times the non-Indigenous rate.

The National Cervical Screening Program enables women aged 25-74 to get screened every five years.

Cervical screening is for well women with no symptoms. Screening can find problems early, so that you can have the right treatment and live a healthy life. If you experience any symptoms, such as unusual bleeding or pain, you should see your general practitioner straight away rather than waiting to have your Cervical Screening Test.

Cancer Council has developed an easy and interactive website for women who want to find out more information: www.cancer.org.au/cervicalscreening.

Alternatively, women can call Cancer Council on 13 11 20, talk to their GP, or speak with their Aboriginal Community Health Service to find out more about cancer screening.


* Paramita Dasgupta, Lisa J. Whop, Abbey Diaz, Susanna M. Cramb, Suzanne P. Moore, Julia M.L. Brotherton, Joan Cunningham, Patricia C. Valery, Dorota Gertig, Gail Garvey, John R. Condon, Dianne L. O’Connell, Karen Canfell, and Peter D. Baade (2019) Spatial variation in cervical cancer screening participation and outcomes among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in Queensland. Geographical Research 2019;57(1):111-122 https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-5871.12281.

This collaborative study was led by researchers from Cancer Council Queensland and Menzies School of Health Research. This project is part of a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Discovering Indigenous Strategies to improve Cancer Outcomes via Engagement, Research Translation & Training (DISCOVER_TT CRE #1041111), and Cancer Council New South Wales Strategic Research Partnership to Improve Cancer Control for Indigenous Australians (STREP Ca‐CIndA; #SRP13‐01). The National Indigenous Cervical Screening Project is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant (104559). The study aimed to quantify the spatial variation by local government areas for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in Queensland in cervical screening participation rates and related outcomes.

For more information or interviews, journalists can contact:

Lisa Maynard, Manager, Public Relations and Social Media
(07) 3634 5171, 0488 015 702 or lisamaynard@cancerqld.org.au

For more information, members of the public can call 13 11 20.