Planned changes to cervical screening test in 2018

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - 15:32

The Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, has today announced that the primary cervical screening test will change in 2018.

The test is moving from analysing cells to detect changes that could indicate an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, to screening for HPV – the virus which causes more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers.

What happens at a women’s cervical smear appointment will not change. The new test means women will only need to be tested every five years as opposed to three as the HPV test is more sensitive.

Last year the Ministry of Health consulted with the sector and the public on changing the primary cervical screening test.

While New Zealand has one of the most successful cervical screening programmes in the world, there’s always scope to further improve screening. Around 160 women develop cervical cancer each year.

Testing for HPV is internationally recognised as a better primary test for cervical screening. A number of countries are implementing HPV screening including Australia, the UK, and the Netherlands.

Changing the primary test in New Zealand is predicted to further reduce cervical cancer deaths by 16 per cent in unvaccinated women and 12 per cent in vaccinated women.

HPV vaccination combined with screening provides the best protection from cervical cancer and the new test is effective for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated women.

The Ministry of Health held 13 meetings around the country on the proposed changes and a total of 87 submissions were received.

The Ministry will continue to work with the public and the sector to ensure a smooth transition to the new testing regime in 2018.

Information on the consultation process and the submissions received can be found under the primary HPV screening section of this site.

Page last updated: 09 March 2016