Get up to date this Cervical Screening Awareness Month
Young girls and women are being encouraged to get up to date with their HPV immunisation and cervical smears this Cervical Screening Awareness Month.
“We know that cervical cancer is one the most preventable cancers, and being immunised against HPV as a young women and having regular smears as an adult helps reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by around 90 percent,” says Clinical Director of the National Screening Unit Dr Jane O’Hallahan.
HPV immunisation is currently free for girls and young women from 9 to 26 years, and also for boys and young men. The HPV Immunisation Programme aims to protect young people from HPV infection, which causes more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers.
Smear tests through the National Cervical Screening Programme
All women between 25 and 69 who have ever been sexually active should have regular smear tests. A cervical smear test usually takes less than 15 minutes and should be done every three years. Any changes on the cervix can be detected and treated before they become cancers.
Your smear test won’t cost any more than the normal cost to see your doctor or nurse.
The National Cervical Screening Programme aims to get 80 percent of New Zealand women between the ages of 25 and 69 screened regularly. “There’s much work to be done, especially with Māori, Pacific and Asian women” says Clinical Director of the National Screening Unit Dr Jane O’Hallahan.
Around 1.5 million women are enrolled in the National Cervical Screening Programme and around 400,000 women are screened annually.
“We’re taking a multi-pronged approach to getting women to participate in regular screening. We contract with a number of providers who deliver individually-tailored and practical support, such as transporting and accompanying women to screening appointments. We also offer free smears for some women,” says Clinical Director of the National Screening Unit Dr Jane O’Hallahan.
“Currently around 150 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 50 women die from it each year in New Zealand. HPV immunisation combined with regular smears is the best way to bring these numbers down.”
Find out when your next smear is due by calling your GP or freephone 0800 729 729.
Future changes to the Cervical Screening Programme
The primary test for cervical screening will change to a human papillomavirus (HPV) test from July 2023 – with the option of self-testing.
The new screening method will test for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). About four out of five people have an HPV infection at some time in their lives. There are many different types of HPV and some are more likely than others to lead to cervical cancer.
Women may notice several changes when the new primary screening test is introduced:
- Women will have the option to self-test. A vaginal swab can be taken by the woman herself in privacy when she visits her healthcare provider for a screen, or it can be taken by a clinician if she prefers. A speculum exam is not needed for the new test.
- Routine cervical screening will only be needed once every five years – not every three years as it is currently.
- Women will still need to consult with their healthcare provider for their screens – even when self-testing. However, the Ministry of Health will be looking at ways to make screening even more accessible in future, including mailing-out self-testing kits if they are found to work safely and well for women.
Source: National Screening Unit and Time to Screen websites.Published on Sunday, August 8th, 2021, under Events