Australian health experts are optimistic that Australia could soon be free of cervical cancer. They attribute the success to the use of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine which prevents infections that can cause cancer.

While Australia has seen incredible progress over the years, experts at Cancer Council Western Australia (CCWA) suggest continued efforts. Nevertheless, experts believe that replacing the current two-yearly Pap smear test with the five-yearly test for HPV is key to completely eradicating the disease.

“In Australia, we have greatly reduced deaths from cervical cancer with our current approach and we believe we can do even better with screening that is less frequent and less costly of the health budget,” says Victorian Cytology Service executive director Marion Saville. “That doesn’t happen very often with any new medical technology.”

cervical cancer

Cervical screening test vehicle in Taiwan. Photo from Wikimedia

The new test, which will start May 1, 2017, assesses for HPV infection before any cell changes unlike Pap smears, which detects cell changes that usually only occur after the patient has already been infected with HPV for more than 10 years. The new test can also be used to those who have not received the HPV vaccine. Women need to be 25 years of age to be eligible for the test.

The Cancer Council Australia reveals that 869 Australians have been diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012 alone. In 2013, 224 citizens have died from cancer.

Still, death rates have been improved since the introduction of the National Cervical Screening Programme in 1991. Cervical cancer symptoms include heavier and longer than usual menstrual bleeding, vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods, bleeding after sexual intercourse, pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal bleeding after menopause and unusual vaginal discharge.

The treatment depends on the cancer stage. Usually, surgery followed by chemotherapy is the opted treatment in the early stage of the disease. For locally advanced disease, experts recommend radiotherapy with chemotherapy. In the metastatic stage, where cancer has already spread in other areas of the body, chemotherapy or palliative care is encouraged.