Increasing access to cervical screening for under screened and never screened women.

The National Cervical Screening Program aims to reduce cervical cancer cases, as well as illness and death from cervical cancer in Australia.

According to the latest National Cervical Screening Program Report (2014-2015):

  • Around six in 10 women participate in the National Cervical Screening Program
  • There is a clear association between participation and socioeconomic group (from 51% for those in the lowest socioeconomic group to 63% for those in the highest)
  • Indigenous women have lower screening rates and poorer outcomes. Incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is more than twice that of non-Indigenous women, and mortality is four times the non-Indigenous rate

Whilst many Australian women have benefited from national initiatives to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality, the latest results are a reminder that this has not been the case for all women, in particular Aboriginal women and women experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage.

In promoting and providing a cervical screening service to under screened and never screened women it may be necessary to address the factors limiting access. These can include: financial hardship; unstable housing; a history of partner violence, a history of childhood sexual abuse; and anxiety symptoms. Limited availability of appropriate services, including lack of female clinicians, inconvenient clinic location and appointment times as well as competing priorities such as work and childcare, are also barriers.

Factors that have been identified as creating an appropriate environment for cervical screening include establishing good clinician rapport and trust; ensuring the service is ‘women-friendly’ or women-centred; ensuring a culturally, emotionally and physically safe environment; and bulk-billing availability. Such services can be provided by general medical services, particularly with the use of practice nurses and/or female clinicians.

For information on how CESPHN can support your service to increase participation in cervical cancer screening visit the cervical screening page on our website.