How the process works

This interactive diagram guides you through the screening process.

Awareness and conversation

Find out about preventing cervical cancer through smear tests and HPV immunisation.

Having regular cervical smear tests every three years as part of a screening programme can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by about 90 percent.

Girls and young women in New Zealand can also be immunised against the four types of human papillomaviruses (HPV) that lead to most cervical cancers and genital warts.

If you are immunised, you will still need to have regular smear tests, because the HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all HPV types that may cause cervical cancer.

Find out about HPV immunisation

If you do not receive an invitation to have a smear test, talk to your GP.

Together, cervical screening and immunisation offer the best protection against cervical cancer.

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Decide to have a smear test?

All women who have ever been sexually active should have regular cervical smear tests from the time they turn 20 until they turn 70. Deciding to have a smear test may save your life.

Find out why you should be screened.

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Yes

Make an appointment to have your smear test.

It is important you feel comfortable with the person who takes your smear.

You have a choice of where to go to have smears: your local doctor or practice nurse; Family Planning; your sexual health service; marae-based or other Maori health centres; community health services, for example, Pacific or women's health centres.

Find out more about where you can have a smear test.

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No

You can reconsider at anytime

Women who have regular cervical smear tests every three years as part of a screening programme reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer by about 90 percent.

Find out more on why you should have a smear.

The smear is taken by your doctor or nurse and the sample is sent to an NCSP approved laboratory.

During your appointment you will be asked to lie on your side or your back with your knees bent up. You will be offered a covering to protect your privacy. The smear taker gently opens the vagina with a plastic or metal speculum and carefully sweeps a sample of cells from the surface of the cervix with a thin broom or brush. It takes only a few minutes to take the smear.

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Laboratory Testing

An HPV test may be requested at the same time by your smear taker. If you over 30 and have a low grade smear the laboratory will automatically test your sample for HPV.

Find out more about HPV and HPV testing.

Results

The result of your smear is reported to your smear taker and added to the National Cervical Screening Programme Register. If you have not received your results within 4 weeks, contact your smear taker.

Find out what your results mean.

Normal Results

Abnormality detected

Following an abnormal result you may be asked to have a repeat smear within 3-12 months or be referred to a colposcopy. In most cases, this does not mean you have cancer.

Find out more about abnormal results.

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Referred to colposcopy for an assessment of an abnormality of your cervix.

The biopsy will show whether there are low-grade or high-grade cell changes. Abnormal cells are sometimes treated at the time of the biopsy. If not, you will be asked to come back for further treatment, if treatment is required. Click to find out more about treatment

Find out more about treatment.

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If you require treatment, your colposcopist will discuss your treatment options with you.

Following treatment you may be asked to have a repeat colposcopy within 6 months. This is to check that the treatment removed the abnormal cells.

The colposcopist will discuss your treatment options and where they are available. Early treatment of abnormal cervical cells has about a 95 percent success rate.

Find out more about treatment.

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Recall

In three years' time you will be invited by your doctor, nurse or other provider for a repeat smear. If your last smear was more than five years ago, or if it was your first smear, you will be invited to have a repeat smear after a year.

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Early Recall

You may be recalled early by your smear taker if you have had a cervical abnormality detected. You may also be recalled early, once you have been discharged from coloscopy.

You will be invited back by your doctor, nurse or other provider for a repeat smear test and will need to book an appointment.

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Page last updated: 12 November 2014
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