Cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent – as long as the cell changes that cause it are detected early
Having routine cervical screening is one of the most important things you can do to prevent or find cervical cancer early.
People who are aged 25 to 69 years of age and have a cervix (including transgender or non-binary people) and have ever been sexually active should have regular HPV screening, the new test for cervical screening. It looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer.
HPV virus is the main cause of cervical cancer
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
This virus is very common and spread through close intimate/sexual contact. Often, people do not know they are infected by the HPV virus.
Most infections will clear up by themselves within a few months. A small number of women are infected with high-risk HPV and if this is not treated, can grow over several years into cervical cancer.
Screening finds HPV infection or precancerous cell changes caused by the virus that can be treated and cancer avoided.
A vaccine for HPV is available. The HPV vaccine is free for people aged between 9-26 years under the National Immunisation Schedule.
The HPV vaccine is very effective at protecting against the types of Human papillomaviruses (HPV) that cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine also protects against HPV types that cause other genital, anal, throat and mouth cancers in both males and females.
The HPV Gardasil® 9 vaccine is free for males and females aged between 9-26 years under the National Immunisation Schedule.
It is offered in two doses to primary school-aged children in year 8. It works best before any exposure to HPV (before any sexual contact).
If your child missed out on getting the vaccine at school, they can get it at your local GP or pharmacy.
When should my child get the HPV vaccine?
In most parts of Aotearoa, your child can receive the HPV vaccine in Year 8 at school. It works best for boys and girls when given around this age and can offer long-lasting protection.
Children or young adults under 27 years old who have not been vaccinated or missed their full dose should see their doctor or pharmacist for their free vaccine.
You may still benefit from getting the vaccine if you are aged 27 or over. It can be purchased at your family doctor or Family Planning Clinic.
Find out more:
Cervical screening: HPV primary screening
The HPV primary screening test looks for the Human Papillomavirus, which causes cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer.
The vaginal swab is quick and easy to do. But it may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may still need to have a cervical cell sample or smear taken.
Cervical screening is every five years.
You should have cervical screening if you:
- have a cervix
- Are 25 to 69 years old and have ever been sexually active (with males or females)
- whether or not you have been vaccinated for HPV
You may still need a screening test if you have had a hysterectomy - check with your doctor.
For the vaginal swab, you can either self-test, or have your test done by a doctor or nurse at:
- your usual local health centre
- community health service e.g. Pacific or Māori health centre
- sexual health service
- women’s health service
How much will a smear cost?
This screening programme is not fully funded. The cost will depend on where you get your test. At your local GP, you will be required to pay your usual fee.
Some health services provide this test at low or no cost. You can phone and ask or check fees on their website.
Free screening is available to people with a cervix who -
- are Māori or Pacific, any age.
- are 30 years and over who have not had a test in the past 5 years or have never been screened.
- require follow-up testing, any age.
- hold a Community Services Card, any age.
Your GP or health provider will let you know your results. This usually takes 1 to 2 weeks.
If your test finds HPV, it does not mean you have cancer.
If HPV is found, you may be asked to have further tests, like taking a cervical call sample or smear.
Learn more about the results of your HPV test.