Australia on track to become first country to eliminate cervical cancer

Australia is on track to become the world's first country to eliminate cervical cancer, with vaccinations and screening tests credited for a remarkable downturn in the devastating disease.

Research released by the Cancer Council today shows cervical cancer is on track to be a rare disease by 2022, with rates set to fall to four in 100,000 by 2035.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said cases have halved since the pap smear was introduced in 1991.

"What we're seeing now is the vaccinations which began in 2007 just beginning to have their impact on younger women, who would otherwise be in the group that might be first developing cervical cancer," he told ABC radio.

About 79 per cent of 15-year-old girls and 43 per cent of boys have had the voluntary Gardasil vaccination, which also offers protection against anal, vulvar and throat cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), and genital warts.

Mr Hunt is hopeful more teenagers will sign up for the life-saving jab.

Cancer Council NSW research director Karen Canfell said pap smears for women and Gardisal vaccinations for boys and girls are vital to eliminating the disease.

"Under the new screening program, women should have their first screening test at age 25 and then every five years, if no high risk HPV is detected," Professor Canfell said.

"Those who have previously had the pap test should have their next cervical screening test two years after their last pap test, after which point they can move to five-yearly screening."

While less frequent, Mr Hunt says the new screening test is more accurate as it detects the virus at an earlier stage.

The new test is expected to lower cervical cancer cases and mortality by at least 20 per cent.

Young female surgeon writing on clipboard in hospital. Medical professional is filling form at counter. She is wearing scrubs.
Source: istock.com

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