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West Coast women taking advantage of cervical screening

July 2, 2013

West Coast women taking advantage of life-saving cervical screening

More than 6000 women in the West Coast region have had cervical screening in the three years to December 2012.

Janet Hogan, Clinical Nurse Manager Cervical Screening for the West Coast DHB, 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,” Janet says.

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 , call 03 769 7853 or go to: http://www.westcoastdhb.org.nz/services/cervical_screening/default.asp

“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.

Janet 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.

Janet says it’s important for women who have had the HPV (cervical cancer) vaccine to remember to have regular cervical smears.

“The HPV Vaccine protects against several types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. However for women who have been immunised it is still important that they have smears every three years,” Janet says.

“I hope West Coast 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.”

ENDS

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