Taranaki performs above national percentage for cervical screening

29 September

September marked Cervical Screening Awareness Month with Taranaki performing strongly to rise above national targets.

The National Cervical Screening Programme aims to get 80 per cent of New Zealand women between the ages of 20 and 70 screened regularly.  While nearly there with 76.5 per cent coverage nationwide, Taranaki sits around 81 per cent.

Mary Lawn, Taranaki DHB Nurse Manager for Public Health and Community Service, said “Taranaki’s great results have been achieved through close working relationships between the local Cervical Screening Unit and all the practises in the Taranaki community.  We also have very dedicated smear takers who work hard to get women to attend their appointments.”

Even though this result is positive for Taranaki, it is important that women are reminded to keep up to date with their cervical smears, especially Maori, Pacific and Asian women whose screening rate is lower.

According to Dr Jonathan Jarman, Taranaki DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, only around 68 per cent of Maori women are being screened in Taranaki.  He said “The death rate for cervical cancer for Maori women is three and half times higher than non-Maori women.”

“Without cervical screening about one out of 90 women will develop cervical cancer and one out of 200 will die from it.”

Dr Jane O’Hallahan, Clinical Director of the National Screening Unit, said “We know that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and being immunised against HPV as a young woman and having regular smears as an adult helps reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by around 90 per cent.”

The HPV Immunisation Programme aims to protect young people from HPV infection, which causes more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers.  HPV immunisation is currently available and free for girls and young women up until their 20th birthday.  From 1 January 2017 it will also be available free from ages 9 to 26, and for the first time boys and young men will have access to HPV immunisation.

Meanwhile, around 1.5 million women are enrolled in the National Cervical Screening Programme and around 400,000 women are screened annually. A cervical smear test usually takes less than 15 minutes and should be done every three years.

O’Hallahan said “We’re taking a multi-pronged approach to getting women to participate in regular screening. We contract with a number of providers who deliver individually-tailored and practical support, such as transporting and accompanying women to screening appointments. We also offer free smears for some women and are in the process of developing a new website and social marketing campaign to encourage women to get screened. 

“Currently, around 150 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 50 women die from it each year in New Zealand. HPV immunisation combined with regular smears is the best way to bring these numbers down.”

Cervical screening is offered throughout Taranaki at 33 medical centres and at Family Planning.  Women can call their GP or free-phone 0800 729 729 to find out when their next smear is due.

More information on the National Cervical Screening programme is available at www.nsu.govt.nz

More information on the HPV immunisation programme is available at www.moh.govt.nz

ENDS

For more information please call
Beth Findlay-Heath
Communications Advisor
021 665 017

Last Friday, October 7, 2016 updated:

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