The number of women dying from vaginal cancer has reached record levels, according to new research.
The new research, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, found that the risk of developing the cancer in women has doubled since the 1970s.
Women who live in rural areas are more at risk than women who live near urban centres, the researchers found.
They also found that while women living in the south-east were at the highest risk of vaginal cancer, the figure was lower in the west.
Dr Helen Mackey, who led the study, said the findings showed the need for improved surveillance.
“Women living in rural communities are at risk of being at increased risk of this disease, so it is particularly concerning to the government, especially if you are living in a rural area,” she said.
“It’s particularly important that we can see the risk in the most vulnerable, in the least likely to be able to access the specialist care that they need.”
A recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that more than a quarter of women in Australia had experienced an unwanted pregnancy or childbirth in the previous year.
Many of the women who were concerned about their risk of contracting cervical cancer were unable to get an Pap test and had not yet received the cancer screening test.
Dr Mackey said women should talk to their doctors about the risk they were at, and that a Pap test would give them a more accurate estimate of their risk.
“We also need to understand how prevalent cervical cancer is in the population and how many of the cervical cancer cases that are happening in our community are actually caused by cervical cancer,” she added.
“How common is it?”
Dr Macquarie said the results of the study had been released a year after the National Women’s Cancer Network had warned of a worrying rise in women dying of the disease.
“The data from the National Woman’s Cancer Trust shows there’s an increase of cervical cancer in the country and that the rate of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer has been increasing,” she told news.com.au.
“And the data is so strong that even if you only have a couple of women diagnosed with the disease, that means you’ve got a much higher incidence of cervical and vulvar cancers.”
Dr MacQuarie said she had also spoken to the Chief Executive of the Australian Cervical Cancer Network, who said the number of cases of cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers had remained stable since the early 1990s.
“While we know there are still about 200,000 women who die of cervical cancers every year, we know that we’re dealing with a very, very small number of cervical cases that we have,” Dr MacQueen said.
Dr McQueen said cervical cancer was not a “random disease” and that it was a difficult condition to treat, adding that the treatment options were limited.
“I’m really disappointed in what the national data shows about the rate that women with cervical disease are being treated,” she warned.
Dr David Leverenz, a researcher at the University of Adelaide, said while the findings were worrying, it was important to remember that the incidence of vaginal and vulval cancers had been increasing.
“If you have the right diagnosis, then the risk is reduced, but the risk increases if you don’t,” he said.