Thousands more women are reducing their cervical cancer risk thanks to their amazing response to the new human papillomavirus self-test being trialed at Local Doctors clinics.
Tāmaki Health regional nursing clinical lead Alysha Clark says nearly 4,000 human papillomavirus (HPV) self-tests have been completed through the Local Doctors clinics involved. More than half were done at the Dawson Road clinic alone.
“This is almost 4,000 women who have probably never had the traditional smear test and out of that we have identified a few at risk women,” Alysha says.
She says this a big step forward to addressing inequitable health outcomes for patients, particularly the high rates of cervical cancer in Māori and Pasifika women.
“All healthcare staff want better outcomes for patients and this offers it. The self-tests can find someone’s mum, nana or sister who does have HPV present and goes on to need treatment.
“You are not only changing the life of the woman, but everyone else who surrounds them. I think that’s what’s important for nurses, because they’re able to offer something that is going to really benefit the patient and their whānau.”
Game changing test makes everything easier
Initially women are quite shocked at how a test that was once quite traumatic for them could now be so easy, she says.
“Even I’m like how do you change from using a speculum to something like a cotton bud? It’s great!”
Women can do the self-test, using a small swab, in the clinic or take it home and drop it back to the clinic. For some women being able to do the test at home is the extra incentive they need to agree to it.
It’s hard to get women to agree to traditional smear tests opportunistically during clinic visits but it’s far easier with the self-tests, she says.
Boost to HPV vaccination awareness
Conversations nursing staff have with women about HPV testing is also reinforcing the importance of HPV vaccination.
“Some women don’t know that HPV is one of the primary causes of cervical cancer so we’re providing a lot of education about that.”
Alysha says the slightly longer waiting time to get results from self-testing is far outweighed by the easier testing method.
The accuracy of the test is improved because there is a lower chance of false positives, she says. Traditional testing can falsely identify abnormal cells leading to unnecessary further treatment.
Alysha is pleased to see to that self-testing will be an option offered to all women from 12 September when primary testing for cervical cancer changes to the HPV test.
(Pictured is: Tāmaki Health regional nursing clinical lead Alysha Clark , second from top left, with some of the nurses from Local Doctors Dawson. The clinic staff are top performers in getting women to try HPV self-tests.)