Background: Cervical cancer incidence and mortality have declined in Australia since the implementation of a national cervical screening program in 1991, however, disparities in both measures between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women remain. We describe spatial and temporal changes in Pap test participation rates by Indigenous status for Queensland (Australia). Analyses were done in the context of renewed screening program in December 2017.
Methods: Population-based study 2,132,925 Queensland female residents, aged 20−69 years who underwent cervical screening from 2008 to December 2017; 47,136 were identified as Indigenous through linkage to hospital records. Bayesian spatial models were used to generate smoothed estimates of participation across 528 small areas during 2008−2012 and 2013−2017 compared to the overall state average (2008–2017). Results are presented as thematic maps and graphs showing the associated uncertainty of the estimates.
Results: Overall screening participation decreased over time for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. Strong spatial patterns were evident in five-year participation for both groups. Indigenous women had significantly lower participation than the Queensland average for ≥ 88 % of areas during both reporting periods whereas corresponding estimates were lower than average for <30 % of areas among non-Indigenous women. Disparities by Indigenous status persisted over time and remained across broader geographical groups of accessibility and area disadvantage.
Conclusions: Cervical cancer burden in Australia can only be reduced through concentrated efforts on identifying and addressing key drivers of the continuing disparities in screening participation. Achieving equitable screening participation for all women especially Indigenous women requires community engagement and localised interventions.