A new study conducted by the Victorian Cytology Service, South Australia has found that an increasing number of women are neglecting to take their two-yearly Pap smears after receiving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine because they believe that receiving the vaccine is good enough to keep them safe from cervical cancer.
Data from the Victorian Pap smear register and the national HPV vaccine register were linked to establish the number of women on the register who received a Pap smear.
Co-author of the study Professor Julia Brotherton said the results were "a little bit disappointing" as she found that in 2010-11, cervical screening was significantly lower in 25-to-29-year-old vaccinated women 45.2 percent compared with their unvaccinated counterparts 58.7 percent. While 37.6 percent of vaccinated women aged 20-24 had regular screening compared with 47.7 percent of unvaccinated women in that age group.
Prof Brotherton hoped the research would highlight the need for women to get screened even though they had received the vaccine. "And we know at the time that women had received that message, but it obviously hadn't translated into actual action and I suspect that they do think they have a level of protection. The problem is, they don't have full protection against all HPV types that cause cancer."
The professor also anticipated that the findings of the latest research would echo findings in other Australian states. "I think it's highly likely that we'd find exactly the same results in South Australia," she said.
This study has pushed the Victorian government to fund a "big letters campaign", so that women have a better understanding encouraging them to get tested. "(They will) write to women in Victoria who haven't had a Pap test," Prof Brotherton said. "It would be great if women across the country got the message."