Elders, parents, aunties and uncles are being encouraged to spread the word about the free cervical cancer vaccine to young girls and women in their communities, as time is running out.
The vaccine is free for girls and women aged 12 to 26 but only until July 2009*. It is available through Aboriginal health services, GPs and immunisation clinics and appointments must be made soon, as the full course involves three doses over a six-month period and all three doses need be completed by July 2009.
‘Cervical cancer is a serious health issue in the community. When I found out about the free vaccine I made an appointment at my health service straight away,' said Carly Sheldon, a 25-year-old Wemba-Wemba woman living in Melbourne.
‘It's really important for mothers to tell their daughters and for friends to remind each other to book an appointment as it's a new vaccine and many women in the community may not know about it,' added Ms Sheldon.
‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are four times more likely to die from cervical cancer than non-Aboriginal women. This is because many women are not having regular Pap tests as part of the National Cervical Screening Program,' said PapScreen Victoria's Aboriginal Community Programs Coordinator Peta Reynolds.
‘The good news is we now have a second method of protection against cervical cancer. However, Pap tests remain essential for all women whether they've had the vaccine or not. This is because the vaccine only protects against the virus types responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancers, and because Pap tests are the only way to check for abnormal cell changes in the cervix,' said Ms Reynolds.
‘Women over the age of 27 should speak to their Aboriginal health worker or doctor about whether the vaccine is right for them,' added Ms Reynolds.
Women who have questions about the cervical cancer vaccine, Pap tests or cervical cancer can call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or visit www.papscreen.org.au