Article by Melanie Whelan, March 15 2016. See the original Courier article here:

Young women are becoming complacent when it comes to the Pap test.

New data has revealed an almost seven per cent drop in cervical cancer screening rates for women, aged 20 to 29 years old, across the state.

Ballarat father-of-two Lucas Ellis said a Pap test was a little bit of awkward for a lot of peace of mind. He has remained vocal about men playing a more encouraging role for the women in their lives, after losing his wife Melissa to cervical cancer in 2010.

Melissa was 34 years old.

“We were sitting down on the couch together about 12 months before her diagnosis when an ad came on television about it. I asked how long since she had been tested and her answer was abrupt…I wish I had pushed more,” Mr Ellis said. “I encourage women to get it done, even though it’s an uncomfortable procedure, and for men to be understanding and supportive about testing.

“Once upon a time, breast screening was a taboo topic but its all just part and parcel of getting testing done now.”

In Ballarat, only 56.8 per cent of women are getting regular Pap tests. This is compared to 57.1 per cent in 2006-07. Ballarat ranks in the bottom 30 per cent of local government areas with the lowest rates of women having regular tests, according to the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry.

Proportion of women tested about the region has also dropped marginally in Golden Plains (62.7 percent regularly tested) and Hepburn (60.3), while screening rates in the Pyrenees Shire have slid from 56.9 per cent to 53.8 and among the lowest rates in the state.

National guidelines recommend all women aged 18 to 70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every two years – even if they have had a HPV vaccine, which may only protect against certain strains.

Most women with cervical cancer have not had regular Pap tests.

Early stages of cervical cancer often have no symptoms but can be preventable if caught early. Regular screening plays a key role in early detection.

Mr Ellis said his family had no idea. The week before Melissa’s diagnosis, they had been on a family holiday in Queensland.

All of a sudden, Melissa experienced heavy bleeding and was sent to a specialist in Melbourne. She died three months later.