Cervical screening ONLY detects cervical cancer.
The Cervical Screening Start Age has changed!
From November 2019, the cervical screening start age has changed from 20 to 25 years.
Already started screening and under 25 years of age?
If you have started screening and are under 25 you will continue to be recalled by your health provider according to the screening pathway you are already using.
Not started screening yet and under 25?
If you haven't started screed yet, you will be invited to start screening as you approach 25. It is safe to start screening as soon as you receive your invitation,. Remember, if you don't receive your invitation, you can contact your health provider directly to arrange a test when you turn 25.
Cervical screening aims to detect abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix (the neck of the uterus or womb) before the cells can develop into cancer. Abnormal cells can be treated to prevent the progression of cancer.
The benefits of regular screening
All women between 25 and 69 who have ever been sexually active should have regular smear tests. The best way to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer is to have regular cervical screening every 3 years. Women who have had the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine must continue to have regular cervical screening because they will not be protected against all HPV types that cause cervical cancer. In New Zealand, approximately 160 women develop cancer of the cervix each year, and about 60 women die from it.
Over 85% of women who develop cervical cancer have either never been screened or have been screened infrequently.
Cervical Screening Saves Lives
Early treatment is highly successful... Since the national screening programme started, the number of women who die of cervical cancer has dropped by nearly two thirds. And if every woman you know got tested regularly, the number could drop even lower.
Having your smear tests
We know having this test can be stressful, so your health provider will work with you to ensure it is as quick and easy as possible.
Smear tests only take around 10 minutes.
It is best to avoid having your test during your period (menstruation).
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.
Who can give me a Cervical Screening test?
You can get a cervical screening done by a doctor or nurse at a:
- General practice
- Family planning clinic
- Sexual health clinic
- Community health clinic
- Women's health centre
How is a Cervical Screening Test done?
Your doctor or nurse will use a speculum to open the vagina and see your cervix. They will use a small soft brush to collect some cells from the cervix. This may feel slightly uncomfortable, but it usually only takes a few minutes. The sample is sent to a laboratory to check for cell abnormalities.
Understanding your cervical screening test results
You've gone and had your test taken now it's time to find out your results. Getting your results normally takes two weeks. The results will be sent out to your health provider. They'll let you know if there's anything unusual in your results. This can be anxious time, waiting, not knowing - so contact your health provider if you have not heard.
Remember, 90% of smear results are perfectly normal - but if something looks concerning, you'll need to act.
Things look good, so just have your regular screening test in 3 years' time.
Unsatisfactory results mean that the test could not be read at the laboratory because there were not enough cells in the sample, or blood or mucus hid most of the cells. You will need another test within 3 months.
Inflammation or infection
Discuss this with your health provider. Often no treatment is required.
It is difficult to be sure whether cell changes are starting todevelop 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 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.
Normal 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 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 cervical screening 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.
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