A global shift to HPV based cervical screening will benefit Kiwi women
Friday 16 September 2016
The New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation (NZGCF) applauds Ministry of Health changes to the National Cervical Screening Programme which will see the age of cervical screening for women increase from 20 years old to 25.
The primary reason for the change – which will take effect from 2018 –is that the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers, is common in younger age groups and typically clears up on its own.
The change coincides with International Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month (September) where NZGCF seeks to raise awareness by educating New Zealand women about the early warning signs of gynaecological cancers.
Other changes to cervical smear tests announced by the Ministry of Health include changing the primary test in 2018 from ‘analysing cells’ to ‘detect changes’ that could indicate an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, to screening for HPV every five years.
”We have been well served by a robust cytology-screening programme but new international data has shown that primary HPV screening performs better and should be the way forward,” says Doctor Ai Ling Tan, Gynaecological Oncologist and NZGCF Trustee says.
“That’s why the World Health Organisation (WHO) and many countries are recommending the change and it’s great that New Zealand is also on board.” she says.
“Our current cervical screening does not decrease cancer rates in women aged 20 to 24 years. It’s also important to acknowledge that over-screening in this group of women also causes unnecessary stress and anxiety associated with colposcopies and overtreatment,” Doctor Tan says.
“HPV testing every five years is just as good as cytology testing every three years and having a negative HPV test is more protective for women then a negative cytology test. This is because HPV testing is between 60 and 70 per cent more likely to pick up cancer and to do so earlier then cytology testing.” She says.
Doctor Tan adds: “The majority of women who present with cervical cancers in New Zealand are not screened and HPV testing can be self sampled which would be less invasive and might improve the rates of participation.”
The aim of any cervical screening programme is to prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the only preventable cancer with vaccination against the causative agent –the HPV virus.
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The New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation is a registered charity and not for profit organisation working to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of all 5 gynaecological cancers - ovarian, cervical, endometrial, vulva and vaginal cancers. Early detection can save lives!