June 25, 2013
Canterbury women taking advantage of life-saving cervical screening
Almost 100,000 women in the Canterbury District Health Board area have had cervical screening in the three years to December 2012.
Dr Kim Burgess from Pegasus Health says while this is encouraging, about 25 per cent of women in Canterbury aged 20 to 70 are still not having regular cervical smear tests.
“Investing a small amount of time in having regular cervical smears can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 percent,” Dr Burgess says.
“Regular cervical smear tests are recommended from the age of 20 to 70 for women who have ever been sexually active and are available from your General Practice team.”
Canterbury women can also access cervical smear tests at the following healthcare providers:
• He Waka
Tapu (03 373 8150)
• Pacific Trust Canterbury (03 377 8159)
• the Family Planning Association (03 379 0514)
• the National Cervical Screening Programme (0800 729 729)
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.
Dr Burgess says having regular three-yearly smears 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.
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.
Dr Burgess 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 three-yearly smears,” she says.
“I hope Canterbury women 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.”
Dr Burgess says if cost is a barrier to getting a smear there are low cost or free smear options available for some groups. To find out if you’re eligible contact your healthcare provider.
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 or go to www.cervicalscreening.govt.nz.
Click here to read the story of a patient with cervical cancer.