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Report shows benefits of screening programme

Report shows benefits of screening programme

The New Zealand Medical Association has welcomed the Cervical Cancer Audit report, which found that the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) operates to a “generally high standard and in some areas operates to a very high standard”.

“The women of New Zealand can have confidence in the service provided and can have confidence in participating,” said NZMA Chairman Dr Tricia Briscoe. “We urge all women to have regular smears, as the benefits of this are well proven.

“As a doctors’ organisation, we are also pleased that health professionals can have confidence in the NCSP as they are a key element of the programme’s success. The report also showed that there is no systemic issue of under-reporting of abnormal smears in our laboratories. This is all good news for New Zealand women.”

The Audit has identified some areas where improvements should be made, particularly with ensuring that more women, particularly Maori, take part in the NCSP.

Of great concern is the gap between Maori and non-Maori women in enrolment with the NCSP and in the incidence of cervical cancer between the two groups, Dr Briscoe said.

“Scarce funding resources should be prioritised to those women in greatest need and with greatest capacity to benefit, which mean that we should prioritise scarce funding resource to improving Maori rates for regular screening and referral and investigation processes.”

Overall, the women of New Zealand can be pleased with this audit report, she said. “It clearly shows that cervical screening does work, when high levels of the population are enrolled. Our challenge now is to find ways of reaching out to those women not currently enrolled, or who do not have regular smears, and bring them on board so they can also benefit from the programme.”

Dr Briscoe said the current general practice recall system is working well for many women, and any changes to the programme should build on this and ensure it is adequately resourced.

The report shows that New Zealand has made good progress: • The death rate for cervical cancer almost halved in NZ between 1988 (prior to establishment of NCSP) and 2000. • Between 1990 and 2000, the incidence of cancer of the cervix declined by 28%.

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