SunLive – BOP cervical tests fall amid Covid-19 pandemic

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The Bay of Plenty District Health Board reports a decrease in the number of women choosing to have a cervical test.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, several national reports indicate that the number of women booking their routine tests has decreased.

Sarah Stevenson, portfolio manager for BOPDHB population and women’s health, says the drop equates to about 1,000 fewer Bay of Plenty women of all ethnicities receiving cervical screens on time compared to pre-Covid-19.

In the Bay of Plenty, Asian women are the only ethnicity to have seen an increase in screening since the pandemic began, as they are up 4.8 percent since February 2020.

Māori women have seen a 4.7 percent decrease in on-time cervical exams since February 2020, Pacific women – 2.6 percent and European/Other women – 3.2 percent.

“Nationally, there was a 6 percent drop in Māori Wāhine parading on time, from 62.4 percent in February 2020 to 56.4 percent in February 2022.”

“The service noted a sharp drop in all women for cervical cancer screening from January to June 2020. Cervical screening was phased out during the first lockdown this year but more recently from July to December 2021 we have still seen a decrease even when cervical screening was still available in newer Covid-19 settings.

“By interacting with the support-to-screening service, it appears that a number of women are awaiting the role of the home-kit swab and are deciding against the traditional cervical swab.”

Sarah encourages all women who have not had their cervical test on time to contact their GP.

Lu-ana Ngatai, Waikato DHB operations manager for screening and sexual health services, says the Breast Screening Call Center continued to book women in the three Bay of Plenty locations as in the normal process.

“The Mountain, Whakatāne and Tauranga Central all screened women according to normal procedure,” says Lu-ana.

Although there has been a higher number of cancellations, the BOPDHB breast screenings are above their target.

“The annual target for the end of March was 9704 screenings, 9865 had been completed at this point.”

“By the end of June 2022, 13,391 women are expected to have had their mammograms within the last 12 months. This means that overall, BOPDHB met the 70 percent of eligible women screened according to Breast Screen Aotearoa.”

Lu-ana also encourages women to go to their health check-ups as they save lives.

“If you live in the Bay of Plenty and have not had a cervical swab or breast screening, please contact your GP. Alternatively, the National Screening Unit can help you find someone to do your cervical screening,” says Sarah.

“Call them on freephone 0800 729 729 or visit their website. https://www.timetoscreen.nz/cervical-screening/.”

“For those who would like more information on breast screening, call Breast Screen Midland on 0800 270 200.”

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