Lifesaving Cervical Screening

With less than half of eligible Victorian women or people with a cervix aged 25-34 taking part in the National Cervical Screening Program, Cancer Council Victoria launches an urgent call for young Victorians to prioritise their health by booking their Cervical Screening Test.

Launching in April, the multi-channel campaign funded by the Victorian Government, positions cervical screening as the ultimate act of self-care. Cervical screening can prevent the development of cervical cancer by detecting abnormal cell changes early, when successful treatment is more likely.

Screening Program Manager at Cancer Council Victoria, Kate Broun, said while cervical screening is important for all women or people with a cervix aged 25-74, the campaign is tailored for 25-34-year-olds to increase screening rates in this age group, protect the health of our young communities and ultimately save lives.

"We know that cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease. It is shocking that Victoria's cervical screening participation rates for 25-34-year-old are the lowest nationally, with over half of eligible people currently missing out on the lifesaving test," Ms Broun said.

"This campaign is especially important now as we know that cervical screening rates have recently declined, some of which is likely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Victoria's unique situation of a second extended lockdown means that we may face a longer road to recovery. Our message is clear – don't delay your Cervical Screening Test, health services are taking all the necessary precautions to keep you safe."

"We are urging young Victorians to take advantage of this opportunity to prevent cervical cancer and avoid invasive treatment – the Cervical Screening Test detects high-risk types of HPV before they have the chance to develop into cervical cancer. One test every five years could save your life – this is the best way to look after your health for the future."

Victorian Minister for Health, Martin Foley said the campaign was vital in preventing cervical cancer for young Victorians, an integral part of Victoria's cervical cancer elimination strategy and the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024.

"We know that cervical cancer is largely preventable through HPV vaccination and cervical screening and early detection is the key. Our efforts to prevent and detect cancer earlier and encouraging more Victorian women or people with a cervix to get screened is saving lives."

Underpinning this campaign is Cancer Council Victoria research into the barriers and enablers to cervical screening identified by a group of Victorians aged 25-34. The campaign messaging and creative have been co-designed to respond directly to this research and meet the unique needs of this age group.

The research revealed that over 40 per cent of young Victorians weren't aware that there are specially trained nurses in Victoria that they can choose for their Cervical Screening Test.

Cervical screening provider and sexual health nurse at Peninsula Health, Robyn Holmes, highlighted that the campaign promotes Cancer Council Victoria's online directory of cervical screening providers, to raise awareness of alternative provider options.

"We know that some women or people with a cervix in this age group prefer to have a Cervical Screening Test with a female provider, a trauma-informed provider or a sexual health specialist to feel more comfortable about the experience," Ms Holmes said.

"Through this campaign we are letting young Victorians know that it's your body, and your choice when it comes to choosing a cervical screening provider. We want to empower our community and equip them with the knowledge to make an informed decision about booking their Cervical Screening Test."

"Staying up to date with cervical screening is a powerful way to look after your health – if you're aged 25-74, this is the best thing that you can do to protect yourself from cervical cancer. The Cervical Screening Test can give you peace of mind for years to come."

The mass media campaign has been funded by the Victorian Government and includes six weeks of radio, digital and social media advertising, supplemented by engagement activities with health professionals. This initiative forms part of the Government's ambitious Victorian Cancer Plan 2020–24, which sets out a target to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in Victoria by 2030 and halve the proportion of Victorians diagnosed with preventable cancers by 2040.

Tailored materials for Tamil- and Punjabi-speaking Victorians have also been developed to address low screening rates within these communities.

For more information about the cervical screening campaign visit: cancervic.org.au/at-your-cervix


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