Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, so it’s easy for us to detect and treat cell changes early.
Early treatment is highly successful. Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, so it’s easy for us to detect and treat cell changes early, this is why you should have a smear test every three years to have the best chance for cell changes to be found early. Treatment is as simple as removing the affected tissue and has a very high success rate.
All women, trans or non-binary people aged between 25 and 69 who have been sexually active should have regular smear tests. This includes if you:
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 smear 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.
This gives you options for how you have your screening sample taken:
How often do I need to have a smear test?
Most women only need to get a smear test every three years. You may need more frequent tests if:
It is your second smear - this should be one year after your first
You’ve had treatment to remove abnormal cells
You have a weakened immune system
Your results show cell changes that need further investigation
It has been more than five years since your last smear
You are taking certain prescription drugs - please check with your doctor
If you notice any symptoms like unusual bleeding, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
What happens during the test?
A smear test usually takes around 10 minutes, and won’t cost any more than the normal cost to see your doctor or nurse. It can be free for some eligible women. It is best to avoid having your test during menstruation.
You will meet with the person taking your smear, who will explain everything to you clearly.
You may choose to lie either on your back or on your side, whichever is more comfortable for you, with your knees bent up. You can cover up with the sheet provided.
They will open your vagina gently with a plastic or metal speculum.
They use a small, soft brush to take a small sample of cells from the surface of your cervix.
You may then get dressed again, and the person taking your smear will confirm how you will receive your results.
Your results will be sent to you after a couple of weeks and further tests or treatment will be arranged if you require it.
It is not uncommon to feel uncomfortable during the procedure, but if you feel pain or discomfort at any time, let the person taking your smear know right away.
Tips to make things easier
Try to breathe and relax your legs
Try lying on your side
Wear a skirt you can leave on
Take a friend or whanau for support
If you have any special requirements that may make having a cervical smear test a bit more challenging, let your smear taker know beforehand.
If you are pregnant, you can still have a screening test, especially if you have never had one before, are due or overdue for one, have an abnormal screening history, or have been recommended for a follow-up test. If you have a normal screening history, you may prefer to delay your test until three months after birth. You should wait until three months after your baby’s birth for your cervical screening to allow time for the changes of pregnancy to settle.
Where can I go to get my smear test?
You can choose to go to a regular doctor or you may choose to go:
Marae-based or other Maori 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.
Cervical Screening Month | 1 - 30 September 2023
Are you overdue or unscreened? Do you have a friend or whānau member overdue or unscreened?
Have your cervical screen in September and go in the draw to win 1 of 5 Prezzy Gift Cards valued at $100 each.
Unsure if your cervical screen is due? Talk to your health provider or Free phone 0800 729 729
You can have your cervical screen with your Doctor, GP Nurse, Family Planning, Sexual Health Clinic or at a Nurse led clinic.
Come along to our next cervical screening:
- Tuesday 3 October 2023 | 08:30am - 12pm
- Sexual Health Dunedin, Ground Floor, Hospital
- Wednesday 4 October 2023 | 8.30am -12pm
- Sexual Health Invercargill, Gate 1 off Elles Road, Blue cottage diagonally opposite Hospice
To book an appointment call 0800 729 729 Monday- Friday 8am-4.30pm or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drop ins will be welcomed.
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.
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 Changing to 25
The cervical screening start age is changing 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 http://www.timetoscreen.nz/cervical-screening/