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Cancer Society Welcomes Government Announcements Of Additional Investment In Cervical Cancer And Breast Cancer Screening

Wellington, 9 May 2021 – Cancer Society of New Zealand is pleased to see the Government will invest $53 million to design and implement a new test to detect cervical cancers.

The new test for humanpapillomavirus (HPV) is expected to replace the current smear test that 1.4 million eligible women between the ages of 25 to 69 use.

Lucy Elwood, Chief Executive of the Cancer Society, says the target for the National Cervical Screening Programme was 80% of eligible women screened prior to 2018. The latest figures indicate 72.1% of eligible women were screened.

"But this figure doesn't paint the full picture. Only 61.8% of Maori, 68.6% Pacific and 59.1% of Asian women were screened compared with 78% of European women," says Elwood.

The new HPV screening test is a more effective test. It will reduce the testing requirements to once every 5 years for most women and there is a self-screening test that allows women to sample at home. Self-screening can help overcome many of the identified barriers.

The Cancer Society supports the World Health Organisation's global goal of eliminating cervical cancer through HPV screening, vaccination and treatment.

"We know that cervical cancer can be eliminated. The Government first announced a move to HPV self testing in 2016, so this has taken too long. With lung cancer screening on the horizon, we cannot accept that implementation of high-quality pro-equity programmes is taking so long. People are dying while we wait,” says Elwood.

The Cancer Society also supports the announcement regarding the national breast screening programme, but emphasises the importance of extending the programme to cover women in their early 70s. Currently, the scheme only covers women aged 45-69.

“Although we are pleased with today’s pre-Budget announcements, we hope to see further investments in cancer screening and prevention in Budget 2021, for example, the introduction of a lung cancer screening programme,” concludes Lucy Elwood.

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