Australia May Eliminate Cervical Cancer Within the Next 20 Years

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women. Early preventative care has helped Australia make the disease rare.

Australia is on track to eliminate cervical cancer a new study has revealed. Currently, seven out of 100,000 Australian women are diagnosed with the disease, the study shows evidence that this number will fall to fewer than six new cases out of 100,000 by 2020.

At this rate the disease falls under the ‘rare’ classification. The research shows the number of cases will continue to drop, saying there will be fewer than one new case per 100,000 by 2066.

Australia to lead the world in cervical cancer reduction

If the research proves correct Australia will be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer from its population. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women.

Approximately 500,000 women across the globe were diagnosed with the disease in 2018 alone. The authors of the study point to Australia's concentrated efforts in preventative care as a major factor in the incredible reduction of the cancer.

In 1991, Australia began recommending that women between the ages of 18 and 70 receive a Pap smear every two years. A pap smear examination is performed by a GP or gynecologist.

The doctor inserts a speculum into the woman's vagina to hold the vaginal walls open while a small sample of cells is retrieved from the cervix. The procedure is uncomfortable but not painful for the patient.

HPV causes almost all cervical cancer cases

The samples are then sent to a lab for analysis. The introduction of regular pap smears for women dropped the cervical cancer rate by 50% in women older than 25.

In 2007 Australia introduced a nationally funded human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine program.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine also protects against other HPV-linked conditions, like genital warts and cancers of the throat, penis, anus, vulva and vagina.

79 percent of Australian girls had been vaccinated by 2016. In 2017, Australia changed its Pap smear recommendations from every two years to HPV screenings every five years for women between the ages of 25 and 74.

These screenings provide better results when looking for cell abnormalities related to HPV infections. For the authors of the study to arrive at their findings, they modeled data on HPV vaccinations, the natural history of the disease and cervical screenings.

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Countries must make preventative care available early

Authors expressed their delight with the findings saying experts were surprised the disease elimination happened so quickly despite the huge efforts put into prevention. However, the fight is not over.

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Health organizations must continue to make HPV screenings available to women as easily and as cheaply as possible for the remarkable predictions to come to fruition. This is the battle for the elimination of cervical cancer to spread to other nations too.

High rates of Cervical cancer deaths occur in places where early screenings and tests are not available. “Cervical cancer incidence in low-income and middle-income countries could also be substantially reduced through a combination of screening and vaccination,” the study authors write, “however, major initiatives are required to achieve high coverage of vaccination and cervical screening.” The study is published in the Lancet.

Via: The Lancet

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