One in 10 women who tested positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) have pre-cancerous changes or cancer cells on the lining of their cervix, the Department of Health said yesterday, urging women to take advantage of free home-testing kits.
The Bureau of Health Promotion said the latest statistics showed an estimated 1.6 million women over 36 years of age had not had a pap smear test in the past six years and were putting themselves at greater risk by not detecting cervical cancer early enough.
Last year, 37,350 women were screened for HPV, of whom 2,955 tested positive for the virus. More than 1,600 of those who tested positive for HPV (about 57 percent) underwent further pap smear testing and 13 percent of those were found to have low or high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, an abnormal growth on the lining of the cervix, the bureau said.
Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞), director-general of the bureau, said women who have not undergone a pap smear to test for cervical cancer for six consecutive years should make use of a free virus-screening program sponsored by the government.
Statistics show that women who have not had a pap smear in six years are 2.8 times more likely to develop pre-cancerous lesions, the bureau said, as early signs would not be detected.
Chiou said 10 percent of HPV-positive women had abnormal growth or cancer cells present on the lining of the cervix and more than 1,200 women who tested positive for HPV last year have not had pap smear tests. Chiou urged them to get tested before it is too late.
To help those who are too shy to undergo screening, the government has allocated funds to support home-testing kits for HPV, Chiou said.
Women aged over 36 who have not received a test for six years are eligible for the tests.
The government has purchased 100,000 HPV test kits. Women can sign up for the free program with their local health agencies.