A new study reveals that Australia’s cervical cancer prevention program is highly effective and will eradicate the disease from the country’s list of public health problems in the next two decades.
Researchers from the Cancer Council NSW forecasted that the cervical cancer rate in Australia in the next two years could drop drastically to a point it will be considered a rare cancer. Yes, you read that right. Australia is on its way to eliminating the dreaded disease, all thanks to its highly effective cervical cancer prevention program.
According to the data published by the researchers in The Lancet Public Health journal, they predicted that there would be fewer than six new cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women by 2022. By 2035, their data shows that it would continue to go down to four new cases per 100,000.
Back in 2007, Australia introduced its national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program for girls and women. The initiative was launched primarily to tackle the country’s problem concerning cervical cancer. The program was later on extended to include boys and men. At the moment, the vaccination rates in the country are at 73 percent for boys and 79 percent for girls aged 15.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer caused by the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that targets the cells of the cervix. It’s the fourth most frequent cancer in women according to the data released by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, this type of cancer has a high mortality rate due to fewer symptoms which are hard to detect.
Since 1991, Australia’s National Cervical Screening Program has been actively encouraging women, especially those who are sexually active and over the age of 18, to get pap smears every two years. However, the program became more effective in fighting the disease when HPV vaccinations were included in 2007.
Last year, the country replaced pap smears with HPV cervical screening tests which are predicted to further reduce cancer rates by up to 30 percent according to the Cancer Council NSW.
“Regardless of what the [elimination] threshold is, it is likely Australia would be the first country to reach it given our current low rate of cervical cancer, and our strong prevention programmes,” Megan Smith, a researcher from the Cancer Council NSW, said in an interview.