Change to cervical screening start age

The Ministry of Health announced that the age women begin having cervical smear tests will change from 20 to 25 from November 2019.

My body, my health, my future - National Cervical Screening Programme.There are several good reasons why women are now being encouraged to wait until 25 to start cervical screening:

  1. Cervical cancer in women under 25 years of age is rare.
  2. There is good evidence that cervical screening does not appear to be effective at preventing cancer for women under 25. There has been no reduction in the incidence rate of cervical cancer for those under 25 years of age since the National Cervical Screening Programme began in 1990. This is despite significant reductions in cancer rates for older women.
  3. Starting cervical screening from 25 years is recommended by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency on Research on Cancer. Many other countries start screening at 25 years of age, such as Australia, UK, France, Belgium, Italy and Norway. Some other European countries start screening at age 30 years, including the Netherlands and Finland.
  4. The introduction of human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation means that young women are increasingly protected against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.

What the age change means

If you have started screening and are under 25: You will continue to be recalled by your health provider according to the screening pathway already being used

If you haven’t start screening yet: You will be invited to start screening as you approach 25. You may receive your invite up to 6 months before your 25th birthday. It is safe to start screening as soon as you receive your invitation, you don’t have to wait until you turn 25. Remember, if you don’t receive your invitation, you can contact your health provider directly to arrange a test when you turn 25.

Still have cervical smears if you have had the HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine protects against some high-risk types of HPV, but it doesn’t protect against them all. So it’s important to have cervical screening even if you have had the HPV vaccine.

Combining HPV immunisation with regular cervical screening is the most effective way you can protect yourself against cervical cancer.

HPV immunisation is now free for everyone aged 9 to 26 inclusive. It’s not too late to discuss getting the vaccine with your health provider if you are under 27 years and have not yet been vaccinated.

Source: Time to Screen website (accessed 17th October 2019).

Published on Thursday, October 17th, 2019, under News
Page last updated: 31/10/2019

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