Notes on the data: Screening programs - Cervical screening

Cervical screening participation, females aged 20 to 69 years, 2015 and 2016 (NSW, Vic, SA, and WA)


Policy context:  Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease in Australia mainly due to primary prevention measures through the National HPV Vaccination Program which vaccinates women against the oncogenic HPV (human papillomavirus) types that cause the majority of cervical cancer.

In 1991, Australia adopted an 'organised approach' to preventing cervical cancer, the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP), which recommends and encourages women under 70 years of age who have ever been sexually active to have Pap smears every two years. The key objectives of the Program are to reduce mortality and minimise morbidity from these cancers, and to maximise the efficiency of program delivery and its equity.

The introduction of the NCSP has contributed to the decrease in the incidence of cervical cancer over time, halving from 18.0 new cases per 100,000 women in 1990 to 9.0 new cases per 100,000 women in 2002. This decrease in incidence was accompanied by a decrease in the ranking of cervical cancer, from the sixth most common cancer in women in 1982 to the 12th most common in 2014 [1]. In 2015-2016, about 6 in 10 women (3.9 million women) participated in cervical screening; this represented 55.4% of women aged 20-69 recommended to have a Pap smear over this 2 year period [2].

In December 2017, the Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap test in Australia. Further details of this program are available here.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: cervical cancer. Canberra: AIHW; 2017. Available from:; last accessed 17 December 2019
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Cervical screening in Australia 2018. Cat. no. CAN 111. Canberra: AIHW; 2018. Available from:; last accessed 17 December 2019

Notes:  Incorrect data for Victoria were identified in the previous release. The corrected data were published in February 2020.

The participation rate for the 24 month period to the end of each calendar year is based on the actual number of women screened as a percentage of the average of the ABS Estimated Resident Population for the two corresponding calendar years, excluding an estimate of those who had undergone a full hysterectomy. If a woman has attended more than once in the 24 months, she is counted once only, and the age is taken from the first visit. However, note that the participation rate for Victoria is calculated differently - see details here.

In some instances, percentages are calculated at greater than 100%; this may be the result of:
  • the address data not allocated to the correct PHA by the concordances available; or
  • the address of the facility where the consultation is held or the service is provided being used, rather than the address of the client/ patient.

In time, with more reliable recording of address details, these occurrences should be reduced.

Cervical screening participation numbers within geographic areas along the Victorian and New South Wales borders, specifically the Murray PHN and the Albury Local Government Authority, may be under estimated because women screened in Victoria but who reside in New South Wales may not be fully allocated to the New South Wales geographic area.

Data are not currently available for Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory; data for these jurisdictions may become available when the National Cancer Screening Register is fully operational.


Geography:  Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Number of individual women aged 20 to 69 years screened over a 24 month period ending 31 December 2016


Denominator:  Women aged 20 to 69 years (Estimated Resident Population (ABS): average of 30 June 2015 and 30 June 2016; excluding an estimate of those who have had a full hysterectomy)


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from the:

  1. NSW Department of Health and NSW Central Cancer Registry, 2015 and 2016; Victorian Cervical Cytology Register, 2015 and 2016; SA Cervix Screening Program, 2015 and 2016 and Western Australia Cervical Cytology Register, 2015 and 2016
  2. ABS Estimated Resident Population, average of 30 June 2015 and 30 June 2016; with hysterectomy fraction data derived from AIHW analysis of the National Hospitality Morbidity Database. Available at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Cervical screening in Australia 2013-14. Cancer series no. 97 Cat. no. CAN 95. Canberra: AIHW. Appendix C.

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