SOUTH Gippsland Hospital (SGH) in Foster is giving a caring nudge to the wider Corner Inlet district community about the importance of making time for routine heath screening.
SGH Well Women’s Clinic Women’s Health Nurse Catherine Enter is always actively promoting cervical and breast screening, and she also wants to encourage men as well as women not to overlook their regular bowel screening, too.
“We want to give a gentle reminder to everyone in the local community about the ongoing need for health screens,” she said.
“We know that screening numbers are down in general because of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are concerned that people in this area may have missed their usual periodic testing.
“Screening services form part of a holistic approach to community health management and are for people with no actual symptoms as a way of monitoring their overall health and wellbeing,” Catherine said.
“Cancers of the cervix, breast and bowel are serious and regular screening means that any changes to these parts of the body are found early, when disease is still very treatable,” she said.
“Good outcomes can follow early diagnosis and treatment, so please, don’t put off screening appointments during the COVID restrictions.”
Easily available free-of-charge screening services include the National Bowel Screening Program, the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program, and BreastScreen Victoria’s mobile van, which is scheduled to return to Foster in October 2021.
“All ages are welcome to come and see me at the Well Women’s Clinic at the Hospital’s Community Health Centre in Station Road on Wednesdays, with the earliest appointment at 8.30 am and the latest at 3 pm,” Catherine said.
“I cater for all gender identification and welcome the opportunity to assist our community as required,” she said.
“I’m also available to those who might prefer to talk with me on the phone to find out any information they need.”
The Well Women’s Clinic and the Community Health Centre meet all the requirements for COVID-safe conditions for those accessing services.
Cervical screening and HPV vaccination
The National Cervical Screening Program’s Cervical Screening Test is offered by invitation every five years to those aged from 25 to 74 years, replacing the former two-yearly Pap smear devised by Greek physician Dr Georgios Papinokolaou.
The new Cervical Screening Test followed the development of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which is available to all children at Year Seven level.
Catherine said HPV has been directly linked to cervical cancer as well as to cancers of the anus, the reproductive organs, and of the head and neck.
South Gippsland Hospital’s Director of Community Health Samantha Park emphasised that the Hospital’s Women’s Health clinic offers cervical screening in a safe and welcoming environment.
“Catherine, who has had more than 17 years of experience in Sexual and Reproductive Health, provides a sensitive and inclusive service to the community,” Samantha said.
“The HPV vaccination has made a great impact on the incidence of cervical cancer in the under-25 age group,” Catherine said.
“I am very keen to provide information to any parents wishing to learn more about the HPV vaccination for their children who will be starting Year 7 in 2021,” she said.
“The overarching message we’d like people to understand is that whether individuals have been vaccinated for HPV or not, the cervical screening program’s recommendations are the most important consideration.”
Breastscreen Victoria’s targeted screening age group is from 50 to 74 years.
Catherine said those aged between 40 and 50 and those greater than 75 years, remain eligible however will not receive regular two-yearly invitations from BreastScreen Victoria. Anyone in these age groups can make an appointment for a test.
“The BreastScreen Victoria mobile testing truck will be in Foster in October, but we suggest that anyone who might be concerned about their breast health or wants to learn what to look for before then, to visit the Well Women’s Clinic or to see their general practitioner,” she said.
South Gippsland Hospital and Breastscreen Victoria will widely promote the mobile screening visit later this year.
All Australians aged between 50 and 74 years are eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and automatically receive a testing kit every two years.
“The screening test for bowel cancer is so user-friendly and easy to do nowadays, and we do urge people to get on with the test as soon as they get it and not just ignore it,” Catherine said.
“People who are younger or older than the bowel screening program’s age range can arrange to be tested through their general practitioner,” she said.
“The National Bowel Screening Program’s catch-phrase is ‘Doing this test could save your life’ and nothing could be closer to the truth than that.”
For more detailed information about health screening services see Cancer Council Victoria website at www.cancervic.org.au and look for the Get Checked pages in the Prevention section.
For more information on any of the above or to make an appointment contact the South Gippsland Hospital’s Community Health Centre reception on 5683 9780.