Niccis cervical cancer brush a reminder for women

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Nicci Kuiti, (Ngati Raukawa me Whanau-A-Apanui) says her own brush with cancer was a stark lesson in why regular cervical smears are so important, and it has made her an even more passionate advocate for regular cervical screening.

Three years ago, aged 26, she had never had a cervical smear, even though she was working in health promotion.

I was fit and healthy and playing a lot of sport. I thought I knew how my body was working and that I didn’t need to have a smear, plus there was a bit of embarrassment involved as well.

Nicci’s partner persuaded her otherwise, and Niccis very glad she finally had the test because it revealed that she had high grade changes, meaning that the cell changes may have developed into cancer if they had not been treated.

So although I didn’t have cervical cancer, I did need treatment. I was so relieved that I’d finally got it done, and that they’d removed what was found.

About the same time, a health promotion job in the National Cervical Screening Programme came up, and Nicci saw it as an opportunity to pass on her experience to others. Especially young women who have the same attitude I used to have. She now works as a Health Promotion Advisor for the MidCentral and Whanganui District Health Boards.

Maori women, who along with Pacific Island women, have higher rates of cervical cancer and lower screening rates are being encouraged to use September, Cervical Screening Awareness Month, to think about when they last had a cervical smear.

The test can detect changes to cells in the cervix that, if left untreated, could become cancer. About 160 New Zealand women develop cervical cancer every year and about 60 die from it.

But cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers and having regular cervical smears can reduce a womans risk of developing cervical cancer by about 90 percent.

Figures from the National Screening Unit show that without regular screening, 1 in 90 women will develop cervical cancer. With regular screening, only 1 in 570 women will develop it.

Cervical smear tests every three years are recommended from the age of 20 to 70 for women who have ever been sexually active.

Many women will get a reminder from their GP or smear taker when they are due for a smear. If you are due, get it done as soon as possible ? and celebrate that sense of achievement afterwards!

Women who are not sure when their smear is due, or who want to become part of the Programme, can ring the freephone number 0800 729 729. Smear tests are available from:

  • your doctor or practice nurse
  • Family Planning
  • sexual health services
  • marae-based or other M?ori health centres
  • community health services, such as womens health centres.

Cervical Screening Awareness Month is coordinated by the National Screening Unit, in partnership with Stayfree. Dont miss out on your chance to win 1 of 1000 Neutrogena lip glosses worth $24.95. You have until September 30 to enter the online competition to go into the draw. Go to www.cervicalscreening.govt.nz .

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