Health Minister Philippos Patsalis on Friday urged women to go for regular Pap tests, saying cervical cancer could be prevented and cured if caught early.
The minster was speaking at a news conference to launch an information campaign organised by anti-cancer association PASYKAF.
Between 1998 and 2011, some 340 women were diagnosed with cancer of the cervix.
“Of these the largest share… around 50 per cent were in the age group 40-44,” he said.
Patsalis said although this was the average age at which women were diagnosed, in recent years the cancer has started appearing in younger women.
“That’s why we are encouragement every woman to have the Pap test at regular intervals,” he said, adding that the health services had been able to prevent the spread of the cancer in women who had been diagnosed early.
A 24-month screening programme which began in March 2014, is expected in total to see some 9,000 women take the Pap test in rural areas. It involves free tests for all women aged 24 to 65 in those designated areas.
“Our ultimate goal, which is included in the national cancer strategy is to develop an organised screening programme that will cover all the women of Cyprus in certain age groups,” he added.According to PASYKAF, around 30 new cases are diagnosed each year in Cyprus, 15 of which are at advanced stage, making treatment difficult or even impossible.
Cervical cancer, which is not hereditary can be caused by infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV – Human Papilloma Virus), usually transmitted by sexual contact (vaginal, anal or oral) from one person to another.
According to PASYKAF, cancers affecting men that can be caused by the HPV virus include rectal cancer, penile cancer or mouth and throat cancer.
The HPV cancer vaccine can be given to both boys and girls from the age of nine up until the age of 25 for women and 28 for men.
PASYKAF said that Pap smear test must be done by all women of any age who are sexually active, even if they have been HPV vaccinated, since the vaccine does not protect a person from all types of the HPV virus.
“PASYKAF continues to offer free vaccines to the public in all provinces under terms and conditions. To date they have given 550 free vaccines,” the organisation said.
If any organisations, company, organised groups, Schools, Communities and Villages would like to host a lecture or to receive brochures or other information on this subject may contact PASYKAF at 22 345 444.