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Cervical Screening

Regular cervical screening is your best protection against cervical cancer. Let’s talk about what cervical screening is, who needs to screen, when and where to get your screening done.  

Why get a cervical screening test?

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, so it’s easy for us to detect the presence of the HPV virus and treat any cell changes early.  

All women, trans or non-binary people who have a cervix aged between 25 and 69 who have been sexually active should have regular cervical screening tests. This includes if you: 

  • Are single 

  • Are immunised against HPV 

  • Only have sex with women 

  • Have a disability 

  • Are no longer having sex 

  • Have been through menopause 

If you have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) check with your doctor or sample taker if you still need to be screened. 

How do I get tested?  

There are two screening options. In September 2023, HPV screening became the new method for cervical screening in Aotearoa New Zealand. HPV testing is a better first screening test. It looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. For most people an HPV infection clears by itself within two years (especially in people under 30).  

New HPV testing means most participants, after consultation with their healthcare provider, will be able to choose one of two cervical screening test options: 

Sometimes HPV can cause a persistent infection so screening for the virus helps participants and clinicians to know if additional diagnostic testing or treatment may be required.   

Choosing the right test for you 

Your healthcare provider can help you find out which type of test is better for you. 

The vaginal swab is quick and easy to do. But this may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may be recommended to have a cervical cell sample taken (previously known as a smear test) depending on their screening history. 

Some people may also prefer to have their sample taken as a cervical sample. A cervical sample also tests for HPV. 

If you do a vaginal swab test and HPV is found, you will either be recommended to return to have a cervical sample taken as a follow-up test or referred directly to colposcopy. This will depend on the type of HPV detected. 

How often do I need to have a cervical screening test? 

Most women and people with a cervix only need to get a cervical screening test every five years. You may need more frequent tests if: 

  • You’ve had treatment to remove abnormal cells 

  • You have a weakened immune system 

  • Your results show cell changes that need further investigation 

  • You are taking certain prescription drugs - please check with your doctor 

If you notice any symptoms like unusual bleeding between periods, after intercourse, pain during sex, pelvic pain or unusual discharge, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. 

Where can I go to get my cervical screening test? 

You can choose to go to your regular health care provider, or you may choose to go: 

  • Family planning 

  • A midwife 

  • Marae-based or other Māori health centres 

  • Any doctor or practise nurse 

  • Your sexual health service 

  • Community health services 

  • Screening support services 

You can request a female smear taker from most services. 

Advice for screening 
  • If you have your period: If you have your period, you can still have a screening test as long as the bleeding is not too heavy. This could affect the test result. 
  • During pregnancy: It is safe to have a screening test when you are pregnant, but it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider. 
  • After pregnancy: After the birth of your baby, you should wait 6 weeks to have your screening test. This allows time for the changes from pregnancy to settle. 
  • If you need extra support :You may take a support person with you to your appointment. When booking, let your healthcare provider know if you: 
    • have a disability that means you need extra support 

    • need an interpreter

After a screening test 

Your HPV result will usually come back within 1 to 2 weeks. It can be an anxious wait however, most test results are normal — around 90% do not find HPV. If HPV is found, if the first test was done as a swab you may be asked to return for a cervical smear with your health care provider or you may be referred to colposcopy, done by a specialist. This is an examination of your cervix using a special microscope. Sometimes tissue samples (a biopsy) will be taken. 

To find out more about cervical screening please visit Cervical screening | Time to Screen - National Screening Unit or give us a call on 0800 729 729. 

Your smear test results

Results usually take around 2 weeks. It can be an anxious wait, but remember that 90% of smear results come back clear, and even when they don’t, it can just mean there is something to re-check.

Abnormal Results

Have your results come back as ‘abnormal’? This can be worrying, but you now have a chance to deal with cell changes before they become serious. Women treated for abnormal cells are unlikely to develop cervical cancer in the future.

Cervical Screening Start Age Changed to 25

The cervical screening start age is changed from 20 to 25 on 1 November 2019.

What you need to know:

  • Women new to cervical screening will be screened from the age of 25 instead of 20
  • Women already in the screening programme who are under 25 will continue to be recalled as normal

To find out more about the age change or cervical screening please visit

Come along to our next Cervical Screening Clinics:

The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group

Where: 22-26 Ribble Street, Oamaru 

  • 16 July 2024 | 9am - 2.30pm
  • 27 August 2024 | 9am - 2.30pm
  • 8 October | 9am - 2.30pm
  • 19 November | 9am - 2.30pm


Dunedin - Womens Health Out-patients, Dunedin Hospital

Ground Floor Dunedin Hospital, Frederick Street Entrance

  • 6 July 2024 | 7:30am - 1pm 

Dunedin - Sexual Health 

Ground Floor Dunedin Hospital, Frederick Street Entrance

First Monday every month recommencing 10 June 2024 | 9am-1pm



Sexual Health 

Where: Gate 1 off Elles Road, Blue cottage diagonally opposite Hospice

  • First Wednesday of every month | 9am-12.30pm

Invercargill - PIACT 

Where: 135 Bowmont Street, Appleby, Invercargill

  • 21 June 2024 | 9am - 12:30pm
  • 27 July 2024 | 9am - 12:30pm