The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) has found there are nearly 2 million women in the country who aren’t up to date with cervical cancer screening because they’re not having regular pap tests.
ACCF chief executive Joe Tooma told ABC News the disease should be almost “entirely preventable” but patients were putting themselves at an increased risk.
“While women are able to have a pap test or cervical screening done every two years, 43 per cent of women don’t get it done regularly enough,” he said.
“What we know is 90 per cent of the women who are going to get cervical cancer or die from cervical cancer are in that group.”
Early detection can prevent cancer
According to ACCF more than 20,000 women in Australia are diagnosed with high grade abnormalities after having a pap test every year.
“Often there are no symptoms and if the abnormalities aren’t picked up soon enough they can develop into cancer,” it explained.
To give you a better idea of how many women cervical cancer affects, about 800 to 1,000 women are diagnosed with it annually and, in 2013, there were 224 deaths from the disease.
“It’s because those cancers were found too late,” Mr Tooma said.
“That’s why we really need to find those women who aren’t getting regular pap tests so we can save their lives.
“With early detection and screening, cervical cancer is almost always survivable.”
HPV vaccine won’t prevent all cancers
ACCF is concerned some women believe they’re protected from developing cervical cancer if they’ve had the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as a teenager.
“One of the issues there is that … while the cervical cancer vaccine is very effective and very, very safe, it only protects you against the two main viruses that cause 80 per cent of cervical cancers,” Mr Tooma said.
“The other viruses that cause the other 20 per cent of cervical cancers are not necessarily covered in that vaccine.
Sign up for SMS reminders
If you see a regular GP they should check in with you to make sure you’ve had your regular pap smear. Some will even send you a reminder letter when you’re due for your next test.
But, if post is not ideal, ACCF has a free text service that’s available to every Australian woman that you can sign up for by filling out a simple form.
National cervical cancer awareness week is held every November and there are multiple events being held in Queensland if you’re interested in learning more about cervical cancer or reaching out to others who have survived the disease.
The charity can also link you to local groups and health professionals if you’re diagnosed and need support.