Tuesday, September 20, 2016
No one likes to get a cervical smear. It’s tempting to put it off, to tell yourself you’ll do it next week, or that it’s not really necessary.
But what we know about cervical screening and cervical cancer makes it clear that going for a smear test every three years is one of the most important decisions you can make for your health.
Cervical cancer and HPV
While cervical cancer is a common cancer among women, it is one of the most preventable – which is why getting regularly screened is so important.
Almost all cervical cancer is caused by some strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that you get through sexual contact.
Even if you’re one of the younger women who’ve had the vaccine to reduce your chance of getting HPV, you still need to get a regular smear.
When it is found early, cervical cancer can be cured. The Ministry of Health says that up to 90 percent of cases of the most common form of cervical cancer could be prevented if women have a smear test every three years.
And we know cervical screening works. Since screening started in New Zealand in 1990, the number of women who get cervical cancer and die from it has dropped by 60 percent. But still, many women haven’t been screened.
Cervical cancer rates in New Zealand
In New Zealand about 160 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and about 50 women die from it.
There are significant differences in cancer rates among population groups. Statistics from 2012 show that Māori women got cervical cancer at twice the rate of non-Māori women and were 2.5 times more likely to die from it than non-Māori.
We need to change this.
Māori and Pacific girls now have the highest rates of HPV vaccination, which is a positive step toward reducing the gap in cervical cancer rates.
We also need to increase the number of Māori, Asian and Pacific women who are able to get a regular cervical smear.
Getting a smear
You can get a cervical smear at Family Planning, at your local GP, at a health clinic, or sexual health clinic.
Anyone from age 20 to 70 years old who has ever had sex or sexual contact with a person should have a smear test every three years.
Our nurses are specialists in taking cervical smears and will do their best to answer your questions, make you feel welcome, and make the experience quick and comfortable.If you’re feeling embarrassed, nervous or whakamā when you go to your appointment, tell the nurse.
It’s also a good idea to ask questions before your smear so you know exactly what happens, and it’ll help you feel more prepared. Remember, a smear shouldn’t be painful. You might find it a bit uncomfortable for a moment, but it’ll be over quickly.
Take care of yourself, your body and your future. Do it for your whānau and for peace of mind. Don’t put it off, because it could save your life.
Put your cervical smear at the top of your “to do” list, and then let your friends and whānau know it’s really not that bad.
Did you know?
- You can book a cervical smear online by filling in an Ask for an Appointment form.
- In 2014/2015 Family Planning carried out over 20,000 cervical smears
- Our services are low cost and free if you’re under 22.
- Family Planning provides training courses and refresher courses for nurses wanting to be smear takers
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.
Find a clinic
Visits are free if you are under
22 (NZ residents only)