Cervical Cancer Fact Sheet for Health Workers | Western Cape Government

Cervical Cancer Fact Sheet for Health Workers

(Department of Health, Western Cape Government)
A fact sheet for health workers on the nature of cervical cancer, its prevalence, the age group of women most at risk and what can be done about it.
  • Cancer of the cervix is the commonest cancer amongst South African women.
  • One in 41 women in South Africa will develop this cancer during her lifetime.
  • Cervical cancer is preventable by doing cervical smears, which can detect the abnormalities preceding invasive cancer, known as squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) and previously known as cervical intraepithelial lesion (CIN).
  • Population-based screening programmes in other parts of the world have shown to reduce the number of new cases of cervical cancer, even when the programmes have been less than perfect.
  • Younger women often present with low grade SIL. Most of these abnormalities revert to normal on their own. Older women with abnormalities, however, are more likely to go on to cancer.
  • It takes approximately ten to 20 years for precursors to become invasive cancer.

The recommendations of the national cancer screening programme, which has been accepted as official South African health policy, are that:

  • Women aged 30 or more should have three free cervical smears. These should be about ten years apart. Screening has been shown to reduce the mortality from cervical cancer by 67% and is considered to be the most cost-effective option for South Africa.
  • If a woman has specific symptoms or a previously abnormal smear or there are clinical indications, she may have free cervical smears in addition to the three.
  • If a woman wants more than three routine screening smears, she must pay for the extra ones herself.
  • If a woman is 55 or more when she has her first smear, and that smear is normal, no further smears should be done on her.



  • Education of health personnel about the importance of cervical screening.
  • Training of health personnel in the taking of smears.
  • Ensuring the availability of necessary equipment.
  • Ensuring that good records are kept concerning the quality and outcome of smears, including a client recall system.
  • Follow up and referral of clients.
  • Educating the community about the importance of cervical screening.


Marie Adamo
Tel: 021 483 2684
Fax: 021 483 4345

The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2014