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“More women get cancer”: Covid cuts cervical cancer screening rate in half




Sarah was diagnosed at the age of 27. She wanted her generation to escape her pain – but experts fear that cervical cancer will become Covid’s legacy. Michelle Duff reports.

Her daughter was three years old when Sarah Corbett was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I don’t remember much about Ratahi. Bright light in the hospital, her coloring book on her mother’s bed.

It was the scariest time in Sarah’s life. As a young single mother, she chose to proceed with cancer treatment immediately at the expense of her ovaries and the possibility of having another baby.

“I just had to think about Ratahi,” she says now. “I couldn’t leave her without my mom.”

That was over 10 years ago. Ratahi is now 16 years old and Sarah (40 years old) has no cancer. Ratahi is vaccinated against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, so the chances of getting cervical cancer are much lower.

read more:
* As many as 21,000 children have not been vaccinated against HPV this year.
* For more and more women, the first line of defense against cervical cancer does not work
* Why not use HPV cervical screening self-diagnosis kits when they can help save lives?

It was hoped that preventable cancer would be eliminated for her generation.However COVID-19 Revealed gaps in national vaccination and screening programs aimed at becoming a protective shield.

During Covid, the number of young women undergoing the first smear test was almost halved. Experts fear a surge in preventable cervical cancer between the new generation of Wahine Maori and Pacifica, unless immediate action is taken.

Sarah Corbett and her daughter Ratahi Corbett (16 years old) are at Wipecrow's home. Sarah appears in the podcast Tell Me About It and shares her fight against cervical cancer.


Sarah Corbett and her daughter Ratahi Corbett (16 years old) at Wipecrow’s home. Sarah appears in the podcast Tell Me About It and shares her fight against cervical cancer.

“We know that there is a problem with the increase in cervical cancer in that young group. This is of great concern,” said Te Tatai Howora O., Center for Women’s Health Research. Professor Bev Lawton, director of Hine, says. “Screening rates are already declining and Covid has made a big difference.

“We need to make it accessible, it needs to be free, and we just need to put our feet on the pedals.”

Overall, about 30,000 smear tests were conducted in the year to October 2020 alone, and numbers plummeted during the national blockade in August this year.

Due to the nationwide untreated delinquent smear tests, the Ministry of Health has begun to provide emergency funding to the district health committee to urgently find and screen Maori and Pacifica women and girls. More than double the chance of dying from cervical cancer From non-Maori.

Internationally, experts warn Even a small blip of screening coverage Especially in ethnic minority groups, it can lead to an increase in cervical cancer.

The decline in screening is Decreased 8th grade HPV vaccination seen this year..

People working at the forefront of Aotearoa say they need to urgently track down the new HPV self-test, which will be rolled out in 2023, or at least provide it to high-priority females.

The HPV self-test, which women themselves or doctors can do at home, allows them to continue screening during a pandemic, Lawton said.

Professor Bev Lawton hopes to hit screening at Te Tai Tokerau with the new HPV test.


Professor Bev Lawton hopes to hit screening at Te Tai Tokerau with the new HPV test.

Lawton and her colleagues are about to begin testing HPV self-tests in thousands of women in Northland. Lawton says he is trying to make as many women as possible shoehorns to make up for the missed women.

Ministry of Health data analyzed by thing The show’s cervical screening was significantly affected by the first Covid blockade in March last year. It recovered slightly in May, but has not returned to pre-Covid levels.

The most common first smear test for women aged 25-30 years has decreased by 46% since September 2020.

Overall, the already undervalued Maori and Pacifica women are the most affected. County-Manukau DHB alone, where 88% of Pacifica women were once screened, are now 58%.

This year, throughout the South Auckland region, only four Maori women and eight Pacifica underwent the first smear test.

Peter Sykes, a professor at the University of Otago and an oncologist who has been monitoring cancer statistics in New Zealand since 2008, said thing About missing a young woman.

“Looking at a young woman with advanced cervical cancer, it’s painful. It’s scary when it’s a preventable disease. Now those who miss screening are now at risk. . “

New Zealand raised its initial screening age from 20 to 25 in 2019 in the hope of a new and more effective HPV test. However, new tests have been postponed many times, and using Covid now increases the risk of cancer not being detected, Sykes said. “These women are exposed, especially if they are not vaccinated.”

thing We asked Manukau, Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury DHBs for comment on how they plan to invade backlog screening. They all refused to answer the question, treated the inquiry as a request of the Official Information Law, and allowed 20 days to answer.

We asked Health Minister Ayesha Verrall for comment.

Battle between generations

Waipukurau mum Corbett (Ngāti Pikiao, Te Arawa) was diagnosed with cervical cancer after two misread smear tests. Later on, there were signs – back pain, tiredness. “I was the only mom, busy, active, playing sports and doing all that. I think I could probably explain all the symptoms,” she says. increase.

Ten years later, Corbett finds it difficult to think that another young Wahine Maori must experience what she did. “It’s still happening. I think it’s difficult.” Yes, this kind of thing was big 12 years ago, but it’s still pretty big. “

Sandra Corbett is working to prevent cervical cancer, so it was a shock when her daughter Sarah Corbett got cervical cancer. Mothers and daughters do not want the Ratahi generation to experience it.


Sandra Corbett is working to prevent cervical cancer, so it was a shock when her daughter Sarah Corbett got cervical cancer. Mothers and daughters do not want the Ratahi generation to experience it.

Corbett’s mother, Sandra, is Kaiwakahere, who is in charge of cervical screening at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Commission. She works overtime in an outreach program and is tracking and testing herself at home. They are often busy mothers, sometimes doing multiple jobs, and that’s the only way to get it done.

However, the blockade and DHB resources were sent to Covid, which was a daunting task, including vaccination, contact tracing, staffing to Auckland, and regular screening clinic closures.

“Current screening rates by Covid have dropped altogether. The amount of smears performed has been significantly reduced, which will result in an increase in cancer,” says Corbett.

Hawke’s Bay lacks GPs, and many seasonal workers and busy women do not have doctors. Even registered individuals often have to wait weeks for smears.

Corbett said the HPV self-test should already be available to high-priority females. “If the ministry had summarized their actions when we knew it five years ago, we wouldn’t have had this problem,” says Corbett.

“I can’t help wondering if it was a man who had cervical cancer. It’s totally different. At least now, can we only do it with the most vulnerable people?”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said he provided an additional $ 380,000 to target the widening fairness gap in screening that resulted from Covid-19. This money was used to provide eligible people in the Maori and Pacific Oceans with additional free and accessible cervical screening tests.

Next year, a social marketing campaign will be launched to promote a safe return to screening for Wahine Maori and Pacific women.

Given the pressure of Covid-19, they said the cervical examination workforce was doing a great job.

“Support for primary health care and screening services continues to work hard to support women and minimize the impact of Covid-19 on access screening.”

Correction: The sentence “Ratahi has been vaccinated with HPV and will never receive it” has been changed to end with “much less likely to receive” at 8:21 am on November 26, 2021. rice field.




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