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AK women taking advantage of life-saving cervical screening

Auckland women taking advantage of life-saving cervical screening

Nearly 300,000 women in the greater Auckland area have had cervical screening in the three years to December 2012.

Monique Fredatovich from Well Women & Family Trust says while this is very pleasing, there are still women in the area aged 20 to 70 who are not having regular cervical smear tests, and she encourages them to contact the National Cervical Screening Programme.

“Investing a small amount of time in having regular cervical smears can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 percent.

“Women who are not sure when their smear is due, or who want to become part of the National Cervical Screening Programme can ring the freephone number 0800 729 729, see www.cervicalscreening.govt.nz, or call (09) 846 7886, ext 0.

“Regular cervical smear tests are recommended from the age of 20 to 70 for women who have ever been sexually active.”

The human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a very common infection, causes cell changes to the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Changes in the cervix as a result of HPV happen very slowly and may clear on their own. However, sometimes these changes can become cancer.

Monique says having regular smears, every three years, means it is likely abnormal cells will be found and treated long before they progress to cancer.

She says some women may now be offered an HPV test when they have their cervical smear. The test helps identify women who may need further follow up with a specialist.

“A negative test result indicates you are unlikely to be at risk of developing cervical cancer in the next three to five years. This can reduce the need for repeat smears for women whose smears have shown mild changes or who have previously had treatment.

“A positive test result means a high-risk type of HPV has been found. In this case, your smear taker will talk to you about follow up, so any cell changes can be treated early.”

The HPV test is usually taken at the same time as the cervical smear test, using the same sample of cells, so there is no need to have a second test.

Monique says it’s important for women who have had the HPV vaccine to remember to have regular cervical smears.

“The HPV vaccine does not protect against all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, so women who have been immunised must still have smears every three years.

“I hope women in the greater Auckland area book in for a smear if it’s due or overdue. It takes only a small amount of time, but it could save your life.”

ENDS

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