30,000 Northern Rivers women not up to date with Pap test

DESPITE having access to a test that can significantly reduce their chance of developing cancer, more than 30,000 women in Northern NSW have not had their Pap test in the past two years.

This startling fact was revealed in the latest figures from the Cancer Institute NSW.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women around the world.

However, in Australia rates of cervical cancer have halved over the last 25 years due to the free national screening program and the introduction of the HPV vaccine.

Professor David Currow, NSW Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, urged women not to be complacent about getting regular pap tests, worried that many women underestimate the importance of this regular health check.

"These days, women are less likely to know someone who has been diagnosed with the disease, so they may not feel they are at risk," Prof Currow said.

"In fact, five women still get diagnosed with cervical cancer every week in NSW, yet 96% of cervical cancers could be prevented by regular screening."

With changes to the National Cervical Screening Program due to start mid next year, there are also concerns that women may be putting off their test until then.

"Until the new program is fully implemented, it is vital that women have their Pap test as soon as it's due," Prof Currow said.

"This is the best chance women have of finding and treating cellular changes before cancer develops."

Prof Currow explained that the changes to the new program will not change the actual procedure women go through for the test.

"It is important women don't wait for the new screening program out of a belief that it might be a different procedure," he said.

"The changes are primarily what is tested for and how it is diagnosed in the lab, rather than a change to how doctors take the sample of cells from the cervix."

The main message from the Institute is for women who are overdue to book their Pap test today.

"This Cervical Cancer Awareness Week is an important reminder for the million women who are overdue to see their GP and have a Pap test that could potentially save their life," Prof Currow said.

To find your nearest GP or women's health nurse that provides Pap tests, visit www.csp.nsw.gov.au.

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