Women are being urged to keep up to date with their cervical screening tests, with concerning new statistics showing testing rates have plummeted.
The number of women having cervical screening tests in November 2020 was only 40,662 nationally, down from 100,097 in November 2019.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women. In 2018, an estimated 570,000 women around the world were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 311,000 women died from the disease.
General practitioner Lara Roeske, a member of Australia's Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Working Party, told ABC News she was deeply concerned by the drop in testing rates.
"It is worrying because we know this is virtually a completely preventable cancer," she said.
"We have strong evidence here in Australia that tells us that the women who are most likely to develop this cancer and die from it are women who are not screened regularly or not screening at all."
The decrease in testing has been attributed to COVID-19. Almost 150,000 fewer Australians than usual were tested for cancer generally during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Experts are worried that people are avoiding seeing their doctor due to the pandemic.
Some of Australia's biggest cancer charities have teamed up for a campaign to change that - New Normal, Same Cancer - which urges anyone with any symptoms to stop putting off seeing their GP during these unexpected times.
Aside from COVID safety issues, it can be easy to forget to have a cervical screening test, which replaced the Pap test in 2017. The Pap test was recommended every two years and looked for cell changes in the cervix. The new test looks for HPV (a common infection spread during sexual activity), which can lead to those cell changes.
Women aged between 25 and 74 are now only required to be checked every five years.
The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation reports that almost half (45%) of eligible Australian women have either never been screened for cervical cancer, or are not up to date with screening.
Having a cervical cancer screening test will help improve early detection of cervical cancer and could save your life.