Cervical cancer and some guidelines to prevention.
1. Smear Test every 3 years
2. Everyone should be HPV vaccinated, males and females starting from 9+ years.
What is a cervical smear?
A cervical smear aims to detect abnormal changes to the cervix (the neck of the uterus or womb) before they develop into cancer and effective treatment for precancerous lesions detected by screening will prevent progression of cancer.
The benefits of regular screening
The best way to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer is to have regular cervical smear tests every 3 years. Women who have been HPV immunised must also continue to have regular cervical smear tests because they will not be protected against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer.
In New Zealand, approximately 160 women develop cancer of the cervix each year, and about 60 women die from it. Some groups of women have higher rates of cervical cancer. These groups include:
- women over 40
- Maori women
- Pacific women
- Asian women
Are you up to date with your smear test?
In countries where there are organised screening programmes, the largest group of women who are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer or who die from it are those who have never had a cervical smear test.
HPV, a cancer-causing virus
HPV, your protection
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common virus. Most sexually active people will come into contact with it at some stage of their lives. It's possible to get HPV just through sexual touching without having intercourse. Many people who have HPV do not show any signs of it, so they can share the virus without even knowing. In most people, HPV is harmless; however, for some people, infection by certain strains of the HPV virus can lead to HPV cancers.
Research has shown that HPV can go on to cause cervical, vaginal, vulva, oropharyngeal and anal cancers in women.
The HPV vaccine is proven to prevent HPV cancers in both males and females. You can be immunised against the nine HPV types that cause the majority of HPV cancers, precancers and genital warts.
The HPV vaccine has been clinically tested and shown to be effective in helping prevent HPV related cancers from occurring and is expected to offer life-long protection. Even though you have been exposed or treated for precancers of the lower genital tract HPV vaccination is still effective.
Immunisation is FREE for people aged 9-26 years old.
The HPV vaccine is available from your doctor. However, schools will be scheduling free immunisations for children at their Intermediate Schools, so no doctors' visits are needed.
The vaccine is administered via an injection, in the arm.
- For people aged 14 and under, only 2 doses are required, as research has shown that the response to the vaccine is greater in younger people. These doses are given about six months apart.
- For people aged 15 and over, 3 doses are required over a six-month period.
- All doses are required to ensure maximum protection.
Smear tests saves lives
Early treatment is highly successful...
Since the national screening programme started, the number of women who die of cervical cancer has dropped by nearly two thirds. And if every woman you know got tested regularly, the number could drop even lower.
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