WA News Guest Opinion / Editorial New Era of Screening
New Era of Screening
Written by Dr Gordon Harloe
Wednesday, 06 December 2017

Dear Editor,

As many of you will be aware by now, the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) will change on December 1. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing, with either reflex or co-test liquid-based cytology (LBC) will replace Pap smears as the Medicare rebatable screening test.

The HPV vaccination program has had an enormously positive effect on public health outcomes. With HPV being responsible for virtually all cervical cancer, the national rollout of the HPV vaccine has seen, according to the Cancer Council report, a 77% decrease in 18-to-24-year-old women with HPV (for the HPV subtypes covered by the vaccine) and a 34% reduction in precancerous abnormalities in 20-to-24-year-old women. The success of HPV vaccination and PAP screening program means Australia now has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world, something of which we should all be very proud.

The renewed NCSP provides exciting positive changes for cervical cancer screening and, as with all major change programs, brings new challenges.

Cervical cancer screening is still required for vaccinated and unvaccinated women. Patients eligible for routine screening will need educating to adjust to the new five-yearly screening program, instead of biannual recalls. Patients will now be managed and tests ordered according to HPV risk, and there will be new Medicare criteria for follow-up tests. Specimen collection will now use liquid vials and not slides.

This milestone in public health will reduce cervical cancer incidence even further, and see Australia become one of the leaders in cervical cancer screening. We look forward to helping you meet the challenges of this change.

Dr Gordon Harloe, CEO and Anatomical Pathologist, Clinipath Pathology

ED. See www.clinipathpathology.com.au for information on the NCSP


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