Grampians pap screening rates among state's lowest

WOMEN'S Health Grampians is concerned Wimmera women are putting themselves at risk of cervical cancer by failing to have regular pap tests.

Pap screening rates for 2012 showed the Grampians region recorded one of the lowest rates in Victoria at 57.6 per cent.

Eight of the region's 11 local government areas had screening rates lower than the state average of 60 per cent.

National guidelines recommend all women aged 18 to 70 who have been sexually active have a pap test every two years.

West Wimmera Shire had one of the lowest rates of regular pap tests in Victoria at 47.7 per cent.

Just 450 West Wimmera women aged 18 to 70 underwent a pap test in 2011-2012.

Although the figure was up 3.2 per cent on 2010-11, the shire was still ranked 78 out of 79 local government areas.

Northern Grampians, 51.6 per cent, and Yarriambiack, 53.5, were in the bottom 10 in the state, while Ararat recorded a rate of 57.2 and Hindmarsh 57.3.

Horsham Rural City was the only Wimmera municipality higher than the state average at 60.4 per cent.

Women's Health Grampians chief executive Patty Kinnersly said the 2012 Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry Statistical Report painted a concerning picture for the region's women.

"It has been an ongoing concern that a significant proportion of women in the Grampians region might not participate in cervical screening programs," she said.

"Cervical cancer is one of few cancers that can be largely prevented with a regular pap test.

"PapScreen Victoria statistics show almost eight in 10 Victorian women who develop cervical cancer either never had a pap test or did not have them regularly in the 10 years before diagnosis."

Ms Kinnersly said the report also highlighted the important work of pap test nurses, who completed 19.7 per cent of tests within the Grampians region.

"The number of tests taken by nurses has increased by 152 per cent in the past five years from 1607 in 2007 to 4046 in 2012, while maintaining the same number of nurse pap test providers at 29," she said.

"Through our consultation with regional service providers we identified the main barriers for rural women participating in cervical screening are confidentiality, convenience and cost.

"We know that some women feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about having pap tests, and our busy lives can make finding the time difficult. But a simple pap test every two years is the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer.

"I encourage all women who are due for a pap test to make an appointment today."

Ms Kinnersly said Women's Health Grampians had developed a list of the region's pap test providers.

She said people could visit to find a female doctor or nurse in their area.

A pap test looks for abnormal changes to the cells in the cervix, which if left undetected and untreated, could develop into cervical cancer.

In 2012, there were 213 new cases of cervical cancer and 51 deaths from the disease.

The rate of diagnosis of cervical cancer in Victoria has dropped by 3.7 per cent on average each year since organised screening began in 1991.

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