Key messages

  • Screening registers are a vital component of population screening programs.
  • The data collected by screening registers is used for patient benefit, research and program monitoring, evaluation and quality assurance..
  • Victoria has a breast cancer screening register and a cervical cancer screening register.
  • The bowel cancer screening register is national.

Screening registers underpin population screening programs.

Registers record complete screening histories

Screening registers record complete screening histories for participants so that each time a person attends for screening their result can be compared to previous results, enabling appropriate clinical recommendations to be provided to health professionals.

The registers also record contact details so that invitations, reminders and recalls for further assessment can be sent to participants. Data reporting and collection is generally electronic and automatic, and in accordance with relevant legislation and health privacy principles.

How the data in screening registers is used

Registers serve multiple purposes, including invitations and reminders, supporting clinical management and follow-up, program monitoring and evaluation, quality assurance (for example for health professionals and pathology laboratories) and to support the overarching quality frameworks of the screening programs. Researchers can access screening registry data, provided they meet the required access criteria and protocols.

Registry data is regularly analysed to monitor program efficacy, safety, outcomes and performance against program indicators at a state and national levels. Data analysis is also undertaken to inform program policy and service planning, to identify trends in screening behaviour and outcomes, and to support initiatives to improve access and participation by under-screened and never-screened population groups.

Cancer screening registers in Victoria

There are two cancer screening registers in Victoria: the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry and the BreastScreen Victoria Registry.

Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry

The Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry (VCCR) is part of the National Cervical Screening Program and provides the infrastructure for organised cervical screening in Victoria. The VCCR is a voluntary ‘opt-off’ confidential database of Victorian women’s Pap test results.

Laboratories provide the registry with data on all Pap tests taken in Victoria, and some human papillomavirus test results and colposcopy procedure results (when these are done as part of a woman’s progress through the screening pathway).

Reminder letters and a safety net

The registry sends reminder letters to women overdue for cervical screening tests, acts as a safety net for the follow-up of women with abnormal screening test results and provides the screening history of a woman to the laboratory that is reporting on the current screening test.

The registry also provides quality assurance data to laboratories, publishes annual statistics on cervical screening outcomes and trends in Victoria and undertakes ad hoc data analysis and data linkage to support program policy and planning.

BreastScreen Victoria Registry

The BreastScreen Registry collects results of mammographic screening, subsequent radiology, pathology and clinical tests and examinations and assessment of women for cancer of the breast through BreastScreen Victoria.

It does not collect test results from diagnostic imaging, pathology or any other tests undertaken by public or private service providers outside BreastScreen Victoria.

The registry links with picture archiving systems

The registry is linked with Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) at breast screening clinics and reading and assessment services. This means the registry links client records with current and prior digital mammography images. The images are not held in the registry, but it does hold a record of each woman’s progress through the screening pathway and the results of tests.

Invitations for free mammograms

The registry sends invitations offering free mammographic screening to Victorian women every two years once they turn 50, until they turn 74. It uses the Victorian electoral roll to identify eligible women. The registry supports a centralised appointment booking service, sends reminders to women overdue for screening, and supports recall and follow-up for each woman with an abnormal screening result.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Registry

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has one national register owned by the Commonwealth and operated via a contract with Medicare. It collects the results of screening test results taken through the program. It does not collect information about the outcomes of all immunochemical faecal occult blood tests (iFOBT) and all colonoscopies done in Australia.