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Cervical Screening

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, so it’s easy for us to detect and treat cell changes early. 

Why go?

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 20 and 69 who have been sexually active should have regular smear 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 smear taker if you still need to be screened.

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:

  • Family planning

  • A midwife

  • 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.

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.