Declines in cervical cancer incidence and mortality following the introduction of universal healthcare in Australia in 1975 probably resulted from greater access to Pap testing, earlier access to diagnosis and treatment services, and improved effectiveness of treatment.
Australia introduced a National Cervical Screening Program in 1991, which was rolled out on federal and state levels, and focused on offering free Pap smear tests biannually to women between the ages of 18 and 70. Since the introduction of this programme the incidence and mortality rates due to cervical cancer in Australia have halved.
Although screening has had a major effect on cervical cancer incidence, there is a need for improvement, as there is still a risk of cervical cancer in screened populations. In the UK, the predicted cumulative lifetime incidence of invasive cervical cancer is 1.70% in the absence of screening and 0.77% with pre-2003 screening practice.
A mathematical model of cervical HPV infection, CIN and invasive cervical cancer in the UK predicted a reduction in lifetime incidence to 0.46% if the sensitivity of the screening test regime was increased from its current average of 56% to 90%. This suggests that increasing the sensitivity of screening tests has the potential to further reduce the burden of cervical cancer.