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Southern DHB Cervical Screening Programme

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    Southern DHB supports the delivery of cervical screening services to all women 25-69 living in our community.

    Preventing Cervical Cancer

    Cervical cancer usually develops very slowly, so it’s easy for us to detect and treat cell changes early. Treatment is as simple as removing the affected tissue, and has a really high success rate. The first signs show up as ‘abnormal’ cells, which can take more than 10 years to develop into cancer. This is why you usually have a cervical screening test every 3 years – this gives us the best chance to find cell changes early.

     

    Risk factors for cervical cancer include

    • A persistent HPV infection
    • Smoking
    • Not being immunised against HPV

    The best protection for cervical cancer is being immunised against HPV and having regular cervical screening tests. For more information on HPV visit www.timetoscreen.nz

     

    Where to have a cervical screening

    It's completely up to you who takes your cervical screening test. You can choose to go to your regular doctor or choose to go to:

    • any doctor or practice nurse
    • a midwife
    • Family Planning
    • your local sexual health service
    • marae-based or other Māori health centres
    • community health services e.g. Pacific or women’s health centres
    • screening support services.

    You can request a female health provider from most services. Whoever you choose, all health providers are specially trained to make sure the test is comfortable, and meets your rights as a patient.

    The National Screening Unit can help you find someone to take your cervical screening test. Give us a call on freephone 0800 729 729.

    Procedures

    What to expect during a smear test

    Smear tests only take about 10 minutes.

    It is best to avoid having your test during your period (menstruation).

    Here’s how it usually works.

    Discuss what is going to happen with the person taking your smear, and make sure they have explained it clearly. You can lie on your side or your back (whichever is more comfortable) with your knees bent up. Let the smear taker know your preference. It’s up to you how modest you want to be – cover up with the sheet provided if it feels better. 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. Once that's done, you can get dressed. They’ll confirm how you will receive your results. Your test sample is sent to a laboratory, and checked for any cell changes. Your results will be sent to your smear taker after a couple of weeks. Further tests or treatment will be arranged if your results require it.

     

    You may find it a little bit uncomfortable, but if you feel pain or discomfort at any time let the person taking your smear know straight away.

     

    For more information visit www.timetoscreen.nz or call us on 0800 729 729

    Understanding your results

    Your cervical screening test detects whether there are cell changes. Just remember, 90% of results are perfectly normal – but if something looks concerning, you’ll need to act.

    Let’s look at what the results mean.

    Normal

    Things look good, so just have your regular cervical screening test in 3 years’ time

    Unsatisfactory result

    Sometimes the sample may be insufficient to be sure that everything is OK. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you have a problem – but get a repeat cervical screen within 3 months.

    Inflammation or infection

    There are a number of infections that you can have – see your doctor to clear up the infection.

    Atypical cells

    It is difficult to be sure whether cell changes are starting to develop or not. Mild atypical changes (called ASC-US cells) are usually the problem and these often clear up before your next test.

    If you are 30 years of age or older, a test for HPV (human papillomavirus) will be done automatically. If HPV is detected, you will be referred to a specialist for a colposcopy. If HPV is not detected, or if you are under 30, have another cervical screening test in a year’s time. If the atypical cells are still there you will be referred to a specialist for further investigation.

    Occasionally the atypical cells are more developed and might mean a moderate to severe change. It doesn't mean there is a problem, but you will be referred to a specialist for colposcopy to check it out.

    Mild (low-grade) changes (LSIL)

    Looks like the cells are beginning to change, but it may take several years to become a problem. LSIL is due to an HPV infection and it usually clears up by itself.

    If you are 30 years of age or older, a test for HPV (human papillomavirus) will be done automatically. If HPV is detected, you will be referred to a specialist for a colposcopy. If HPV is not detected, or if you are under 30, have another cervical screening test in a year’s time. If the atypical cells are still there you will be referred to a specialist for further investigation.

    Moderate to severe (high-grade) changes (HSIL)

    These are more developed cell changes. This doesn’t mean cancer (most women will have cell changes that can be successfully treated) but you’ll need another check called a colposcopy examination to be sure.

    Glandular cell changes or adenocarcinoma-in-situ (AIS)

    Although the cervical screening test is not designed to detect glandular cell changes, such changes are sometimes found. You will be referred for a colposcopy, and it is important for you to go to your appointment.

    Cancer

    If your cervical screening test shows any changes suggestive of cervical cancer, you will be referred to a specialist within 1 week. The sooner this is treated, the better the chances of success. It's important for you to go to your appointment.

    Colposcopy

    If your smear test had an abnormal result, you may need an extra check called a colposcopy. You’ll be sent an appointment time for a colposcopy at the public hospital. This is free.

    It’s important to go to your appointment even if you don’t have any symptoms. 

    What is a colposcopy?

    A colposcopy is when a specialist examines your cervix using a special microscope called a colposcope. After they’ve done the colposcopy, the specialist will discuss their findings with you.

    Sometimes, if they see something that concerns them, they will take a biopsy. This means taking a tiny sample of tissue from your cervix and having it checked it at a laboratory, just to be sure.

    Colposcopies are a safe and effective check.

    Charges

    The cost of your screen depends on the health provider you choose. Some providers might have a low-cost option. You can check what cost options are available to you when you make an appointment with a health provider or call 0800 729 729 to discuss your options.