The Cancer Society is calling for a full roll out of free cervical screening for all people eligible for screening to help eliminate cervical cancer in New Zealand.
This week New Zealand launches a new cervical screening self-test (Human Papillomavirus (HPV) primary testing).
Cancer Society Medical Director Dr Kate Gregory, a consultant medical oncologist in Nelson who specialises in gynaecological cancer, is celebrating this significant change and sees this as the perfect time to make the further changes needed to end cervical cancer.
“This is a subject that is really dear to my heart as I’ve looked after women with gynaecological cancer for well over 20 years now. The Cancer Society is happy to see changes in the way that we are able to screen with the introduction of the self-test option for HPV, the virus that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. We know this is a really important step in making screening more accessible and acceptable to people.”
Each year about 160 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer and around 50 die from it. High rates of cervical screening, together with high rates of HPV vaccination, can help eliminate cervical cancer in Aotearoa, says Dr Gregory.
“We have a real opportunity to turn this around. A self-test will be cheaper to administer than our previous standard cervical screening. The savings will help free up health budget to do more in cervical cancer prevention.”
Dr Gregory says New Zealand has committed to the World Health Organisation’s goal to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030 but is currently falling “woefully short” of that.
“Australia is on track, due to their high rates of HPV vaccination coverage (over 80%) and cervical screening. Only 56% of the eligible population here in New Zealand have received both doses of the HPV vaccination. We want to see all those who have missed their HPV vaccination be vaccinated, with a commitment to vaccinate all our tamaraki, prioritising those who have not received a single dose.
“We also want to see free cervical screening for all people with a cervix aged 25-69. Cervical screening is the only screening programme not fully funded like breast and bowel screening. Current funding is focussing on those in the priority groups – Māori and Pasifika people, underscreened, unscreened, and those with a Community Services Card – on a ‘first in, first served’ basis. We support this new free self-test, but are disappointed that funding will not be available to everyone on a long-term basis.”
“It is amazing to have a cancer that we can think about eliminating. Let’s not miss this opportunity to make eliminating cervical cancer a reality. The time for bold action is now.”
The Cancer Society of New Zealand released a Manifesto earlier this month, posing 12 key asks to decision-makers ahead of this year’s election. Find out more at www.cancer.org.nz/manifesto
For more information please contact:
Maria De Cort
Senior Communications Advisor, Cancer Society of New Zealand
021 991 952
About the Cancer Society of New Zealand
The Cancer Society of New Zealand is the country's leading organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of cancer and ensuring the best cancer care for New Zealanders. We are committed to working with communities and decision makers by providing leadership and advocacy in cancer control, with core services in information and support, research and cancer prevention.