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Now’s the time for cervical screening

Now’s the time for cervical screening

29 August 2014

Cervical Screening Awareness Month is coming up in September and MidCentral DHB is encouraging women who are due, or overdue, to book a smear test now.

Over 30,000 women across the region are up-to-date with their screening, and to encourage everyone else to join that number, smear tests will be free or subsidised (depending on the GP) from September until 30 November 2014.

If it’s one of the many things on your ‘to do list’, now is the time to tick it off. 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 free phone number 0800 729 729, see www.cervicalscreening.govt.nz , or contact their General Practice.

MDHB Cervical Screening Health Promotion Advisor Nicci Kuiti is aware that there are women who still are not having regular smear tests carried out.

She said: "Having regular cervical smears can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 percent. If you are between the ages of 20 and 70 and have ever been sexually active, then it’s crucial that you have a regular smear test.”

Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a very common infection, causes cell changes in the cervix. These cell changes happen very slowly and may clear on their own. However, if not found early, they can sometimes lead to cervical cancer. Having regular smears, every three years, means it is likely abnormal cells will be found and treated long before they progress to cancer.

Some women on yearly screening 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.

Ms Kuiti said: "A negative HPV test result indicates you are unlikely to be at risk of developing cervical cancer in the next three to five years. For some women, two negative tests can reduce the need for annual smears, and return them to three yearly screening. This needs to be discussed with your smear taker.

"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 what follow-up is required 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.

It’s important for women who have had the Gardisal (cervical cancer vaccine) to remember they still require regular cervical smears. The Gardisal vaccine protects against several types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts, but not all.


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