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Pleasing results from the Cervical Screening Programme
7 September
Tariana Turia

More Maori and Pacific women are having cervical smears as part of the National Cervical Screening Programme.

It was extremely pleasing to announce last week that more Maori and Pacific women have had cervical smears as part of the National Cervical Screening Programme during the past three years.

In the 36 months to January 2010, 54 percent of Maori women had cervical smears as part of the Programme, compared with 47 percent in the 36 months to September 2007.

In the 36 months to January 2010, 59 percent of Pacific women had cervical smears as part of the Programme, compared with 47 percent in the 36 months to September 2007.

This month is also Cervical Screening Awareness Month and I urge all women to use the month as a prompt to think about when they last had a cervical smear.

Approximately 160 New Zealand women develop cervical cancer every year with about 60 dying from the disease so having regular cervical smears is really important as it can reduce a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer.

I don't normally talk about statistics, when I'm talking about health, because it's hard to see the connection between the numbers and the real quality of life that I'm interested in. But these numbers of fatalities certainly make you think.

If it's a matter of choosing life or death; or a bit of embarrassment or perhaps discomfort; I know I'd choose life any day.

Traditionally Maori and Pacific women have lower cervical screening rates and higher rates of cervical cancer so it is great news that screening rates for these women have increased, potentially saving lives and greatly reducing their chances of developing cervical cancer.

I am in no doubt that the increase in women having smears can be put down to the successful public education campaign urging women to have smears so they would be there for their whanau.

I have had extremely positive feedback about the campaign and in particular the advertisements featuring Pacific women. Every time I see the advertisements I can't help but have a giggle at the humour that is used and if it helps raise awareness and save lives then that is even better.

This month we are launching new commercials which we hope will be equally well received by women and will continue to encourage women to have regular cervical smears.

I also know that the increase in screening numbers is also attributable to health promotion activities and the efforts of providers to recruit women to the programme.

It is so important that women feel comfortable about having smears and I know providers are working very hard to assure women that regular smears are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Most women between the ages of 20 and 70 should have a smear every three years.

Ultimately cervical screening is about saving lives and adding to the lifespan of our mothers, aunties and daughters. What better goal can there be than that?

 
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