The Western Trust is urging parents of girls who are eligible to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to make sure that they get it to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer later in life.
The Trust is supporting the Public Health Agency (PHA) HPV Campaign.
The vaccine is offered to girls in Year 9 and 10 through a school-based programme.
The Western Trust said that after the HPV vaccine was launched the uptake was very good, with figures for Year 9 girls peaking at 88.1% in 2012. However, since then there has been a steady decrease with 2017 being the lowest to date at 74.6%, although uptake improved with the chance to be vaccinated in year 10 for those who had missed out in year 9.
The Western Trust’s School Nursing Team has already commenced the HPV Programme for girls in year 9 and 10 in schools throughout the Western Trust area from the 19 March until the 25 April 2018. An additional session per school will be held in the first week of June 2018.
Irene McSorley, Western Trust School Nursing Team Lead is encouraging parents or guardians to talk to their daughters about the importance of getting the HPV vaccine and complete the consent form which has been given out by the Schools before the Easter break.
Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Cervical cancer can kill so we are fortunate to be able to offer teenage girls the HPV vaccine to help protect against it.
“Even though the vaccine has only been available in the UK for nine years, it is very exciting that decreases in pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix and in genital warts have already been seen. It is estimated that the level of protection offered by the vaccine will last for at least 10 years and probably protection will be lifelong.”
This vaccine helps protect against two virus types that cause over 70% of cervical cancer. The vaccine won’t protect against the remaining cancer-causing types, so it’s vital that women still go for routine cervical screening (smear tests) to check for cancer.
Dr Jessop added: “The HPV vaccine is the first step girls can take to help protect themselves against cervical cancer. Once they reach the age of 25 the next step is to go for three-yearly smear tests.”
If parents have any questions about the vaccine, they can find more information on the PHA website pha.site/hpvqanda or contact the Western Trust School Nursing Team on T: (028) 82835171.
Women in Northern Ireland have a 1 in 10 chance of being diagnosed with changes to the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer at some point in their life, but the HPV vaccine can help protect against it, reducing the risk of getting cervical cancer by over 70%.
Each year around 95 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Northern Ireland with an average of 22 women dying from the disease.
In addition, 1,225 cases of cervical cancer in situ are diagnosed each year. This is where some cells of the cervix have pre-cancerous changes, which could lead to cancer if not treated.