Tuesday, September 8, 2015
September is Cervical Screening Awareness month, a time dedicated to promoting the message, mā te āraitanga ka ora: prevention is better than cure.
Cervical screening is a routine procedure. In New Zealand, up to 84 percent of eligible women have a smear every three years.
What is a cervical smear test?
A cervical smear test is a screening test to find abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. These cell changes are cause by the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. HPV infection is very common, and most people come into contact with it at some stage of their life. The changes in the cervix from HPV infection happen very slowly. By having regular smears, there is an excellent chance that the abnormal cells will be found and treated long before they ever become cancer.
Why do I need a smear?
A cervical smear is not a test for cancer, it is a wellness programme designed to keep you healthy by checking for pre-cancerous cells on your cervix. About 9 out of 10 cervical smears are normal. An abnormal cervical smear result means some of the cells on the cervix differ in some way from normal cervical cells. An abnormal result hardly ever means cancer. Having regular cervical smears can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 per cent.
When do I need to get a smear?
From the age of 20, all women who are or have been sexually active need to get a cervical smear.
What if I’ve had the HPV vaccine, do I still need a smear?
The vaccine does not protect against all HPV types; therefore, women who have been immunised must still continue to have smear tests.
Who will be taking my smear?
All Family Planning doctors and nurses are trained to be smear takers. They are very experienced at taking smears and will do their best to put you at ease. Most smears are done by our nurses. One of our doctors may take your smear if you have a particular concern.
On average, our nurses and doctors take 21,996 cervical smears each year - that’s 1,833 every month and 84 every day.
What if I’m worried/scared?
It is normal to be worried or fearful before a smear. It is important to remember that the actual smear will only take a couple of minutes. You are free to ask as many questions as you like and to bring in a friend or family member for support.
What if I haven’t had a smear for a while?
We know that some women delay having a smear because they’re too busy with other issues, it’s difficult for them to get to a clinic, they’re embarrassed or for dozens of other reasons. We just want women to stay well – so we’re going to be thrilled to see you when you come to one of our clinics – regardless of how long it’s been since you last had a smear.
How do I book in for a smear?
There are a number of ways to book a smear – you can use the Ask for an Appointment form on our website to book your next smear or you can call your nearest clinic to make an appointment. You can also have your smear done during a drop in clinic – check our website for drop in times at your nearest clinic.
How much will a smear cost?
New Zealand Residents
Over 22 and with Community Services Card -$5 Over 22 and no Community Services Card - $27 Under 22 – FREE
Some of our clinics offer no cost smears for some women – ask at your clinic for details.
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.