National Cervical Screening Unit

National Cervical Screening Unit

Eligible screening age now 25 – 69 yrs

The Ministry of Health, National Screening Unit (NSU) have upcoming changes to the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP). The NCSP has increased the eligible screening start age from 20 to 25 years of age.

This decision is a safe clinical based rational – not money driven

 Primary considerations

  • Primary considerations to all women are firstly no harm
  • Not over-treating
  • An HPV test is the first line of assessment

 What can you do?

  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms
  • Always talk to your doctor/elders/women close to you, if anything has changed in your body and been persistent for 4 weeks or more

Context for change

This decision to change the eligible screening start age from 20 years to 25 years has been made based on a substantial body of evidence that screening patient between 20 and 24 years of age provides little benefit to women and has the potential to cause harm. The primary reason for this is because screening is not effective in this age group at preventing cervical cancer.

Since the start of the NCSP in 1990, there has been no reduction in rates of cervical cancer for a women under 25 years old despite significant decreases in both cancer incidence and mortality for women older than 25 years of age.

The age change is in line with changes made in many other countries, including Australia, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Norway. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer also recommends that cervical screening begins at 25 years old.

New Zealand undertook its own study based on the New Zealand population, to confirm if this was suitable for New Zealand women before instigating these changes.


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