Despite cancer screening being linked to reductions in mortality and increases in survival rates through the early detection and treatment of cancer, our region’s cervical screening participation rates have been declining. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
This week is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, in close proximity to the commencement of the Renewal of the National Cervical Screening Program from 1 December, when the two yearly Pap test for women aged 18 to 69 years will change to a five yearly Cervical Screening Test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) for women aged 25 to 74.
Based on modelling, the Medical Services Advisory Committee to the Australian Government predicts that the new primary HPV screening program in Australia will lead up to 30% fewer cases and deaths from cervical cancer in Australia. (Department of Health National Cervical Cancer Screening Program)
National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week is a fantastic opportunity for all GPs, Nurses and primary health care professionals to promote awareness of the importance of regular cervical cancer screening, and to clearly communicate changes with the Renewal Program to your female patients.
Earlier this year, we partnered with Family Planning NSW to offer a webinar education series to assist GPs and Nurses in our region prepare for changes with the Cervical Screening Renewal Program.
The final education update in this series will be held on 14 November, from 6:30-8:30pm. If you would like to understand more about the Renewal Program, including assessing risk of cervical cancer based on a woman’s Cervical Screening Test results, I encourage you to take the opportunity to register online.
New National Cervical Screening Guidelines are also available to assist health professionals to prepare for the transition to the Renewed Program.
Since March this year, we have also been working closely with 18 participating practices across our region to improve cancer screening participation among practice patients through regular audits of cancer screening test results (for age-eligible patients), identifying patients overdue for screening and team quality improvement approaches.
Research demonstrates that primary care providers play a critical role in communicating positive messages to their patients about cancer screening. Having a planned and systematic team based approach to reinforcing cancer screening, including provision of patient reminders are some of the ways the participating practices are working towards achieving this.
I encourage all practices in our region to consider planning for the way they will be communicating about cervical screening, in particular changes with the Renewal Program to commence from 1 December.