Canterbury women are urged to use Cervical Screening Awareness Month this September as a reminder to have a cervical smear test every three years.
Dr Kim Burgess from Pegasus Health says investing a small amount of time in having regular cervical smears can significantly reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer up to 90 percent.
"The cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer typically happen very slowly. Having regular smears, every three years, means it is very likely abnormal cells will be found and treated long before they ever become cancer," Dr Burgess says."I hope Canterbury women book in for a smear if it's due or overdue, and join the National Cervical Screening Programme if they haven't already. And if you've had your smear, that's great, but don't forget to have another one in three years' time – you're worth it"
She says even women who have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine still need to have regular cervical smears, as the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer."For some cost can be a barrier to getting a smear. To help address this low cost or free smears are available for some groups. To find out if you're eligible contact your healthcare provider," Dr Burgess says.
Women can get a cervical smear at their General Practice. The following healthcare providers are also able to provide smears to Canterbury women:
In Canterbury 73 percent of all women aged 25 to 69 regularly had a smear in the last three years. This includes 47 percent of Māori women, 61 percent of Pacific women, 51 percent of Asian women and 78 percent of European/other women. The National Cervical Screening Programme is working towards a national target by 2014 of 80 percent of women having had a smear test in the past three years.
Women who are not sure when their smear is due, or who want to become part of the National Cervical Screening Programme can contact their GP, ring 0800 729 729 or go to www.cervicalscreening.govt.nz.
Several promotions have been planned for September to encourage Canterbury women to have a smear. These include:
There will also be displays at Work and Income Offices, Churches, Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, the University of Canterbury, CPIT Te Puna Wanaka, and Hagley Community College.
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