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Cervical Screening

Matawai waha kōpū: tō matawainga, tō whiringai Cervical screening: your test, your choice

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening tests for cancer-causing strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Regular cervical screening and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation are the best ways to protect yourself.

There are now two options for having your cervical screening test: a vaginal swab where you can self-test or a trained professional can assist you or, you can choose to have a cervical sample (what used to be called a smear test) taken by a healthcare provider.

Why get screened?

Almost all cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is very common and is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact or any sexual activity. Most adults will have HPV at some time in their lives. With regular cervical screening any changes on the cervix can be detected and treated before they become cancers.  Each year, 180 people get cervical cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand. Of the people who develop cervical cancer in in Aotearoa, 85% have either never been screened or have not had regular screening.

Who should have smear tests?

You are encouraged to participate in the screening programme if you are a wāhine/woman or anyone with a cervix, aged
25 to 69, including anyone who:

  • has ever had intimate skin-to-skin contact or any sexual activity (even if they haven’t been sexually active for a long time)

  • has only had non-penetrative sex (i.e., oral sex)

  • is straight, gay or bisexual

  • is transgender, non-binary or intersex, and has a cervix

  • has only been with one sexual partner

  • has had the HPV vaccination or not

  • is pregnant or has had a baby

  • has been through menopause

  • has a disability.

If you have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) check with your health provider if you still need to be screened.

What to expect

For most people HPV screening will replace the test (previously called a smear test) where a doctor or nurse performed a vaginal examination and 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 in a health clinic (such as behind a curtain or in a bathroom), or you can have your doctor or nurse assist you.

You can also choose to continue to have the test, previously called a smear test, where a cell sample is taken from your cervix.

For most people regular screening will now only be needed every 5 years (or 3-yearly of you are immune deficient).

If you decide to have a self-test, these are the steps to take your sample. At your appointment, one of our female nurses will walk you through the whole process.

If you have a disability or health condition

If you have any special requirements that may make having the test a bit more challenging, let your health provider know beforehand. Tell them know what you need when you make your appointment, and on the day.

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 and aren’t overdue for a test, you may prefer to delay your test until three months after the birth. After your baby’s birth you should wait three months to have a cervical screening test. This allows time for the changes of pregnancy to settle.

Bringing a support person

You are welcome to bring a support person or member of your whānau with you.

What can I expect from my results?

Most test results are normal. Around 90% of people screened will be found not to have HPV.


If HPV isn’t found, your risk of developing cell changes that may lead to cancer is very low. This means you won’t need to be screened for another 5 years (3 years if you are immune deficient).

What if HPV is found in my sample?

It doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. Most HPV infections clear up by themselves. However, if the virus is found, you will be referred for further checks to see if there are any cell changes on your cervix.  It may be recommended that you have a test to check the cells of your cervix (previously called a smear test) or a colposcopy (kol-poss-kapee). Both tests look for cell changes that, if untreated, may develop over time into cervical cancer.

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