Your browser has 'Cookies' disabled, alert boxes will continue to appear without this feature.

Media release

Changes to cervical screening will benefit Australian women

24 February 2017

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) reassures patients changes to the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) are based on strong clinical evidence and are a positive step forward for Australian women.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said the changes to the NCSP were welcomed by general practitioners and were based on new evidence and better technology.

“Changes to the NCSP are supported by rigorous testing and consultation by leading gynaecologists and pathologists, general practitioners and consumers,” Dr Seidel said.

“What we have found through this evaluation and consultation is that an HPV test every five years is more effective and just as safe as screening with conventional cytology (a Pap test) every two years.”

“The enormous success of the HPV vaccination program in Australia is another key factor in the introduction of these changes to the NCSP.”

Dr Seidel said the introduction of a five-yearly HPV screen was now considered international best practice.

“Australia isn’t the only country in the world to introduce HPV screening,” Dr Seidel said.

“This has been carefully and successfully tested throughout the world.”

Dr Seidel said the Renewal Guidelines have been endorsed by the RACGP as an accredited clinical guideline for general practice and have met RACGP criteria for clinical practice guidelines. The new changes are reflected in the 9th edition of the RACGP Red Book

“The most recent edition of the RACGP Red Book includes changes to the National Cervical Screening Program,” Dr Seidel said.

“The Red Book states that women aged 25-74 years, both HPV vaccinated and unvaccinated, will be invited to undertake an HPV test every five years. Women of any age who have symptoms, including pain or bleeding, should have appropriate cervical assessment.”

“Australia has the lowest mortality rate and the second lowest incidence of cervical cancer in the world,” Dr Seidel said.

“Introducing these changes will allow us to continue to lead the way in this field and further reduce the number of Australian women diagnosed with cervical cancer.”

Dr Seidel said women of any age with symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge and pain should see their GP immediately.

Dr Seidel said the decision this week to delay implementation of the program was a positive indication of the Federal Government’s commitment to safe, high quality health care for Australian patients. The new program was originally set for an implementation date of 1 May 2017.

“There is no need to rush the implementation of a program through if recall systems and databases are not operational to a standard that the government, the profession and most importantly the community and our patients expect,” Dr Seidel said.

“The RACGP is first and foremost committed to evidence-based policy and high quality patient care, and I commend the government for its sensible decision to delay implementation until all necessary systems are fully in place.

“I welcome timely and open dialogue with the Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy.”