Pap smears, new Maccabi HPV screening test aim to reduce cervical cancer

International Cervical Cancer Awareness week begins January 22.

Close up of female doctor holding syringe with injection (iilustrative) (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Close up of female doctor holding syringe with injection (iilustrative)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Cervical cancer is the thirdmost- common cancer in women worldwide, after breast cancer and colorectal cancer, but its prevalence in Israeli women is among the lowest in Western countries, with just 243 diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2014 (the latest available figure) and more than 600 others with early-tomiddle- stage cases.
One of the main reasons, according to the Israel Cancer Association, is that most Israeli men are circumcised, and this reduces the transmission to women of human papilloma virus (HPV) – which can trigger the cancer – in sexual intercourse.
Ninety-five women died of invasive cervical cancer in 2014, 81 of them Jews.
The ICA, in cooperation with the Health Ministry’s cancer registry, published data on Tuesday in advance of International Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, which will be marked in Israel from January 22 to 28.
ICA director-general Miri Ziv said: “The most effective means today against cervical cancer are prevention and early detection. A routine cervical Pap test is designed to diagnose changes in cervical tissue. Early detection and treatment can prevent precancerous tissue from becoming cancerous. I call on women to take responsibility for your health, check the guidelines and insist on the nature of any change.
“Women aged 25 to 65 are advised to have a Pap smear every three years, even though the exam is in the basket of health services only for those aged 35 and 54, once every three years, except for women defined by their doctors of being at high risk, who can get it at any age,” Ziv said.
At Maccabi Healthcare Services, the second-largest health fund, a new test is available to members to identify the presence of HPV. It can also identify carriers of the virus, not just precancerous or cancerous lesions. It is important to note that HPV vaccine for girls and boys in eighth grade was introduced several years ago as part of the vaccination routine, but the proportion of those willing to undergo the vaccination is relatively low, especially in Jewish religious schools.
Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker, deputy- director of the Israel Center for Disease Control in the ministry, said that the average age of diagnosis of invasive cervical cancer was 55 years in Jewish women, 58 years in Arab women and 52 years in “others.”
The risk of cervical cancer and death rates are significantly higher in Jewish women than in Arab women, apparently because Arab women are less likely to smoke, eat less junk food and have a somewhat different genetic background.
Supplementary health insurance policies at the public health funds allow a Pap smear and examination regardless of the age of the patient, with a deductible of between NIS 28 and NIS 97 per woman who is not within the age range entitling to the examination according to the health basket.