Women’s Health Week – Day 1 – Check me out

Women’s Health Week – Day 1 – Check me out

It’s Spring, and, as we might be thinking of a spring clean around the house, why not set some time aside for our own health and wellbeing?

This week is Women’s Health Week, 4 – 8 September, and is a nation-wide campaign of events and activities – all centred on improving women’s health and reminder to take some positive and proactive steps to being healthier and for everyone to make their health a priority.

This year’s theme is “Grow your knowledge” and is all about supporting women to make informed decisions about their health with information that’s easy to understand. The program will feature new resources and information on hormones, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), menopause, cervical screening self-collection, heart health, persistent pelvic pain and nutrition. Every day will focus on a different subject.

Yesterday, on Day 1 of the campaign, it was all about getting regular health checks, which is one of the best ways to protect your health.

As the TDHS Community Health Nurse, Amanda Nash, knows all too well the importance of regular health checks, like cervical screening.

“Regular cervical screening is the best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer,” TDHS Community Health Nurse, Amanda Nash said. “Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.”

The cervical screening test checks the health of your cervix. This test is like a pap smear, but it specifically checks for human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is a common virus that can change cells in your cervix. It’s spread by contact with genital skin. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Most people with HPV don’t have symptoms, which is why screening is so important.

“From July 2022 all women/persons with a cervix, 25-74 years, have had the option to collect their own cervical screening sample,” Amanda said. “Previously this method was only for women who were hesitant to screen or well overdue.”

If you choose to take your own sample (self- collection), you still need to do this at a health facility.  The healthcare provider, doctor or nurse, will explain how to do the test and you can do this in the privacy of the bathroom or behind a screen. The doctor or nurse can assist you if you prefer.

“Self- collection is just as safe and accurate as having a healthcare provider take your sample,” Amanda re-assures. “It might feel uncomfortable, but shouldn’t hurt. It’s like inserting a tampon.”

The procedure involves inserting a swab into your vagina and gently move the swab in a circular motion for 10 to 30 seconds. Then you remove the swab from your vagina and place in the container.

The healthcare provider completes the paperwork and the sample is sent to the laboratory for testing.

“If your test does not show HPV, you can wait 5 years for your next test,” Amanda said. “If your test is positive to HPV, your healthcare provider will talk to you about what is recommended.”

Self- collection is not recommended if you have had unusual vaginal bleeding, pain or discharge. If you have any of these symptoms you need to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Your results are also sent to the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR). This service will also send you reminders about when to have your next test.

“It is important to have a test, even if you have been vaccinated for HPV,” Amanda said. “While the HPV vaccine is highly effective, it doesn’t prevent all HPV infections.”

For more information about the cervical screening tests and/or any regular health checks, please visit the Jean Hailes website at https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/womens-health-week.

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