Young girls and women are being encouraged to get up to date with their HPV immunisation and cervical smears this Cervical Screening Awareness Month.
"We know that cervical cancer is one the most preventable cancers, and being immunised against HPV as a young women and having regular smears as an adult helps reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by around 90 per cent," Clinical Director of the National Screening Unit, Dr Jane O'Hallahan says.
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 boys and young men as well. The HPV Immunisation Programme aims to protect young people from HPV infection, which causes more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers.
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.
"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 we're nearly there with 76.5 per cent coverage nationwide, there's still much work to be done, especially with Māori, Pacific and Asian women.
"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."
To find out when your next smear is due either call your GP or free-phone 0800 729 729.
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
Media contact: Rachael Bruce 021 705 469
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