Self-testing for cervical cancer could save Māori women

A new study has found self-testing for cervical cancer screening could save Māori women's lives. The study found Māori women were more receptive to self-testing, citing whakamā (shyness/embarrassment), lack of time and fear of discomfort as the current barriers to screening.

Conducted through hui and a survey, the study, led by Victoria University of Wellington's Te Tātai Hauora o Hine Centre for Women's Health Research, involved more than 500 Māori women and health practitioners.

Researcher Anna Adcock says, "Hui participant responses to the idea were generally very positive, with women using terms such as 'easier', 'more comfortable', 'less intrusive' and 'brilliant'.

“Our findings suggest that, implemented in a flexible and culturally sensitive way, HPV self-testing could be very acceptable for Māori women who find current screening unacceptable."

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death for Māori women aged 25-44 and  Māori women are more than twice as likely as New Zealand European women to be diagnosed with, and three times more likely to die from, the disease.

Researchers say three out of four study participants reported very likely to do a self-test for the cancer causing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) with nine out of ten reporting very likely to attend a follow-up if they tested positive.

HPV screening is more effective at preventing cervical cancer and its associated premature death than the current smear test and the new technology enables women to screen themselves.

"We need to implement this new cancer prevention screen as soon as possible to save lives," says Adcock.

Randomised controlled trials underway in Northland have proven successful according researchers, with 250 eligible Māori women taking up the offer.