Cervical Cancer Prevention

Today marks the beginning of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. This year’s theme “reduce your risk” aims to promote the importance of regular cervical screening or ‘smear’ tests among women between the ages of 25-60 years old.

According to the World Health Organisation, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women after breast, colorectal and lung cancer. In 2018 there were an estimated 570,000 new cases worldwide. However, 75% of cases can be drastically reduced through a comprehensive approach which includes prevention, effective diagnosis, early screening and treatment programmes.

Incidence rates are still a concern as almost half a million young women between the ages of 25-29 did not attend screenings in 2018.

Currently, there are vaccines that can significantly reduce the risks of developing cervical cancer. Other factors that can reduce risks are condom use and late first pregnancies. Research has also found that there is a link between second hand smoking and all stages of the disease. The studies revealed that the risk is 70% higher in people exposed to tobacco smoke.

Thanks to its national vaccination and screening programmes, Australia is set to become the first country to eliminate cervical cancer within the next 20 years. As early as 2022, the cancer could be classified as a “rare” cancer.

Last month they took on a new test that can detect the virus causing the cells changes in cervical cancer in the first place.  The test would still require a sample from the cervix, but because it detects cervical cancer risks earlier, it can be done every 5 years instead of 2-3.

The Netherlands have also already switched to the new HPV tests and New Zealand and the UK will soon follow. The US recommends having a Pap smear and HPV “co-test. Gardasil 9 is the latest vaccine which protects against 9 strains of HPV that together causes 90% of cervical cancer.

How you can get involved

Smear tests may not be pleasant, but they are important in combination with HPV vaccinations. This message needs to be communicated clearly and effectively to women. To get involved in Cervical Cancer Prevention Week you can post a selfie on social media with either a tip or word of support along with the hashtag #SmearForSmear.

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