Women unaware cervical cancer linked to sexually transmitted virus

Thursday 5 June, 2008

Alarming new data from the Cancer Council Victoria show almost 50% of Victorian women do not know what causes cervical cancer.

Only one in 10 women are aware cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a virus spread through genital skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.*

‘Cervical cancer is caused by an infection with HPV, a very common sexually transmitted virus. It's important for women to understand their bodies, in particular what health conditions they may be at risk of and how they can keep themselves healthy,' said Lea Rawlings manager PapScreen Victoria.

HPV is very common. Four out of five women will have HPV at some point in their lives and not even know it. For most women HPV clears naturally from the body, however in some cases it can persist.

‘In cases where HPV does persist, changes to the cells of the cervix usually occur. These changes are picked up by Pap tests - changes that are left undetected can develop into cervical cancer. That's why it's so important for all women aged 18 to 69 who have ever had sex to have a Pap test every two years,' said Ms Rawlings.

‘Worryingly only 2.9% of women surveyed named ‘not having Pap tests' as a contributing risk factor for cervical cancer, even though we know Pap tests significantly reduce the risk of developing the disease,' added Ms Rawlings.

PapScreen targets women at biggest ‘chick flick' of 2008To reinforce the link between sex and cervical cancer PapScreen is running its Pap test advertisement in the previews of Sex And The City.The state-wide cinema advertising campaign starts today and runs for five weeks.

* Cancer Issues Population survey 2007

Women who have questions about Pap tests, HPV or cervical cancer can call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or visit www.papscreen.org.au