From 12 September 2023, the primary test for cervical screening (previously called a “smear” test) will change to a human papillomavirus (HPV) swab test, with the option of self-testing.
WHY GET SCREENED?
Almost all cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread is by sexual activity or intimate skin to skin contact.
Having regular cervical screening can help keep your cervix healthy, as it can detect abnormal cell changes early on before anything more serious develops.
WHO SHOULD GET SCREENED?
If you’re between 25 and 69 years old, have a cervix (including trans or non-binary people), and you have ever been sexually active or had intimate skin to skin contact, you should have cervical screening every 5 years (or every 3 years if immune compromised).
If you have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) check with your GP or Nurse whether you still need to be screened.
CHANGES TO THE SCREENING TEST
Cervical screening in New Zealand is changing. A simpler test is being introduced that will make it easier to have this important health check.
The new screening method will test for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). About four out of five people have an HPV infection at some time in their lives. There are many different types of HPV, and some are more likely to lead to cervical cancer than others.
You will still need to consult with your healthcare provider for your screens, even when self-testing.
HOW IS THE NEW HPV SWAB TEST DIFFERENT TO THE PREVIOUS SMEAR TEST?
For most people HPV screening will replace the test (previously called a smear test) where a doctor or nurse took a cell sample from your cervix.
This new screening can be done as a simple vaginal swab. You can choose to do this as a self-test in a private place with us (such as behind a curtain or in a bathroom), or you can have your doctor or nurse assist you.
You can also choose to have a cervical smear taken in case it is needed following a positive HPV test.
For most people regular screening will now only be needed every 5 years (or 3-yearly of you are immune deficient).
HOW DO I GET THE NEW TEST?
Most people who are eligible for cervical screening will be offered the new test as part of regular screening. There will be a recall in your records to identify when you are due this. From here a Nurse will send out the reminder that the screening test is due.
CAN I DO THE SELF-TEST AT HOME?
Initially the self-test will be done as part of your in-person appointment, but you can talk to us during the appointment about other options.
IS THERE A COST FOR THIS SCREENING TEST?
Te Whatu Ora has announced $7.3 million in funding to provide free cervical screening services for key groups as part of its move to the new HPV test.
Free screening will be available from 12 September 2023 for:
- women and people with a cervix 30 years and over who are unscreened (have never had a screening test) or under-screened (haven’t had a test in the past 5 years)
- anyone requiring follow up
- Māori and Pacific
- anyone who is a community service card holder.
If you are not covered by the funding, the appointment cost will be the same as it was when you had a smear test.