Women aged 18 to 26: Get your free cervical cancer vaccine now

Friday 22 May, 2009

Women aged 18 to 26 are being urged to access the free cervical cancer vaccine now, as the vaccine will cost $450 in six weeks time: half of the economic stimulus payment.

The vaccine is a course of three injections and women must have their first dose by 30 June 2009 for the full course to be free. They then have until 31 December 2009 to complete the subsequent two doses.

Women who access the vaccine for the first time after 30 June 2009 will incur a fee of $450 for the full course.

Craig Sinclair, Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre at Cancer Council Victoria, is urging all eligible females to take advantage of this free cancer prevention offer.

"Not much is free in today's world, so we really encourage women aged between 18 and 26 to take advantage of this government-funded initiative."

"It is also very important for girls and women who have started but not completed the vaccination course to do so, as all three doses are necessary to ensure the vaccine is most effective," Mr Sinclair said.

Twenty-year-old Hannah Haines had the cervical cancer vaccine in January this year at her local community health centre and thinks others her age should do the same.

"It's great that there's a vaccine to prevent the majority of cervical cancers, and even better that it's free. The needles did hurt a little, but the long term health benefits far outweigh the pain of a few needles," Ms Haines said.

The vaccine works by protecting against the two strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers (HPV types 16 and 18). An added benefit is that the vaccine also protects against two strains of HPV responsible for 90 per cent of genital warts (HPV types 6 and 11).

All women, vaccinated or not, between the ages of 18 and 70 should have a Pap test every two years. This is because Pap tests are the only way to check for abnormal cell changes on the cervix and the vaccine does not protect against all cancer causing HPV.

The cervical cancer vaccine will continue to be administered free-of-charge to girls in Year seven through the school-based National Immunisation Program.

If you have questions about the cervical cancer vaccine or cervical cancer please call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 or visit www.papscreen.org.au.