Monday, July 15, 2024

Free high-risk cervical screening to continue

Cervical screening will continue to be free for women with higher risk of cervical cancer, Health Minister, Shane Reti, has today confirmed.

“Our Government is committed to achieving better cancer outcomes for New Zealanders, and screening programmes are critical to getting an early diagnosis and timely treatment,” says Dr Reti.

“Continuing to fund free cervical screening for women who are more likely to develop cervical cancer and have poorer outcomes is another way we are doing this.”

The initiative, coupled with the introduction of the option to self-test for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), has already significantly improved screening rates, said the Minister.

“Cervical screening and HPV immunisations provide significant protection against cervical cancer. Since the National Cervical Screening Programme was established in 1990, the incidence of cervical cancer in New Zealand has reduced by 50% and deaths from cervical cancer have reduced by around 60%.”

Women who are un-screened or under-screened are believed to be at much greater risk of developing cervical cancer, with approximately 85% of all cervical cancers found amongst this group. Cost can be a barrier for screening for those on lower incomes, which is why Community Service Card (CSC) holders are also eligible for free screening under this initiative, the Minister said.

Funding is being targeted towards the groups with the greatest need and highest clinical risk. Māori cervical cancer incidence is 1.7 times that of non-Māori, and mortality is almost 2.5 times higher. Pacific women also experience significantly higher cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates compared to non-Pacific women.

“If you are due for your regular cervical screening, I encourage you to participate. It’s quicker and easier than ever, with the option to self-test,” said Dr Reti.

“Screening allows for early detection, follow-up testing and treatment. It finds early warning signs before they become cancer.”

The zero-fees cervical screening programme is funded by Health New Zealand, meaning eligible women will not be charged a co-payment when they access cervical screening.

Find out more about cervical screening and who is eligible: https://www.timetoscreen.nz/cervical-screening/.

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