Public Health Crisis Looming

Without any community consultation, radical changes were made to cervical screening in Australia last December. The Pap smear is no longer the “front line” tool in preventative cervical cancer screening. We believe this will put women’s lives at risk.

Without any community consultation or in fact without the community even being aware of the proposal, radical and sweeping changes were made to the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP).

Introduced in 1991 the current NCSP offers routine biennial Pap smear screening for all women aged 18-69 years. The program has had great success. As a result of its introduction, both the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer has halved to one of the lowest in the world.

Now this has all changed. Rather than focus on cervical cancer detection, and thus, prevention, with biennial Pap smears; the new program relies primarily on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and triage HPV testing. This strategy is untested; unproven; and will put the lives of women, particularly young women, at risk.

The Renewed NCSP offers a “cervical screening test” to women only at 5-yearly intervals, and only beginning at age 25 years. Moreover, this “cervical screening test” is NOT the Pap smear.

Women now only have a Pap smear if they test positive to HPV. Not only has HPV testing been introduced for the first time as a public health screening strategy; it has been fast-tracked to become the primary screening tool.

In contrast to the Pap smear, the HPV test is not a test for cancer but rather identifies strains of HPV. Cells are collected from the cervix as with a Pap smear but Instead of being sent to a cytology lab to be screened for cell abnormalities, the sample will undergo partial HPV genotyping. The HPV test screens for a sexually transmitted infection.

Why will women’s lives be at risk?

There are two main types of cervical cancer: the slow-developing, HPV-related squamous-cell cancer (squamous carcinoma); and the much more aggressive glandular-cell cancer (adenocarcinoma).

 There are two type of cervical cancer and yet the new policy is focused on just one. It is modelled exclusively on squamous cancer and ignores empirical evidence from the NCSP that glandular cancer now represents approximately 30% of cervical cancers diagnosed in Australia today. This comes at a time that clinicians are reporting an apparent increased incidence in glandular-cell abnormalities and cancer in young women.

This new screening policy will put the lives of women, particularly young women, at risk. If the HPV test does not detect cancer, why have they replaced the Pap smear? Why mess with a success story?

Two yearly Pap smears are a proven, long-established and very successful screening test for cervical cancer.


2007: A warning that the new Gardasil vaccine may end up causing more deaths from cervical cancer if women stop having Pap smears.

2013: Regular Pap smears are the ONLY way to prevent cervical cancer, says Professor Ian Frazer.


Health Crisis looming 1


Health Crisis looming 2

2016: Think vaccination will save you? 

Morgan Harris is in South Brisbane getting some ink. The then-27-year-old has always wanted a tattoo but not like this, never like this. It’s not the latest cool body art she’s come in for. This is not a tattoo parlour. She’s at the Mater Cancer Care Centre and she’s here being tattooed because she ¬desperately wants to survive…

Despite being among the first generation of women to receive the Gardasil vaccine as part of Australia’s internationally acclaimed national immunisation scheme, Harris has cervical cancer…



Health Crisis looming 3

2016: Here's why you should get that goddamn Pap smear

Every year, more than 20,000 Australian women are diagnosed with high-grade abnormalities after having a pap smear. If these abnormalities, or changes in the cells on the cervix, aren't picked up soon enough they can develop into cancer.

But almost half (43%) of Australian women are still not getting one every two years, as recommended. Women under 25 are particularly guilty: more than half (57%) have either never screened or are under-screened.

“Younger women who have had the Gardasil vaccination think that they are fully protected against cervical cancer but the vaccine [only] protects you against 70% to 80% of the HPV types that cause cervical cancer," said the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation's chief executive, Joe Tooma.

"That is why all women should be screened every two years whether they have been vaccinated or not."


Health Crisis looming 4


Change Org

Its not too late to sign!! Stop Changes to Pap Smears - Save Women's lives petition
Malcolm Turnbull: Stop Changes to Pap Smears – Save Women’s Lives

Although the petition is now closed, it makes for interesting reading. In particular, go into Greg Hunts MP’s Response and read the comments.