Many Illawarra residents are not taking advantage of national cancer screening programs, despite the region’s rate of certain cancers being higher than the state average.
Boosting participation rates – particularly in bowel, breast and cervical cancer screening – was the focus of a forum held in Kiama this week.
More than 50 nurses and general practice staff attended the Illawarra Shoalhaven Cancer Screening Forum, hosted by Coordinare – South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network.
Coordinare regional director Linda Livingstone said participants learned how to engage more people in cancer screening activities.
‘’While the incidence and mortality of bowel cancer in the region is higher than the state average, there’s been a decline in participation rates in the bowel cancer screening program, by Wollongong and Shellharbour residents in particular,” she said.
“Participation rates in cervical cancer screening among Wollongong, Shellharbour and Shoalhaven residents are also lower than the state average.
‘’And breast screening rates are also declining in the region, particularly among people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and culturally and linguistically diverse, backgrounds.’’
Ms Livingstone said screening programs saved lives, but needed to be encouraged by health professionals, especially in primary care settings.
‘’GPs, or even the receptionist in the practice, have an important role to play in ensuring people remember to get screened,’’ she said.
‘’It may be as simple as asking a patient when they last had their pap test. Often it’s just that people forget due to their busy lives.’’
Ms Livingstone said the National Bowel Screening Program posted Australians over 50 a free, simple screening test to use at home; while BreastScreen NSW provided free mammograms for women between 50 and 74.
The cervical cancer vaccine and regular pap tests worked together to prevent cervical cancer in Australian women.