On this page:
- Two screening options
- Choosing the right test for you
- Find a screening provider
- Cost of cervical screening
- Advice for screening
- After a screening test
In September 2023, HPV screening became the new method for cervical screening in Aotearoa New Zealand. HPV testing is a better first screening test. It looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer.
This gives you options for how you have your screening sample taken:
- a vaginal swab — you can either self-test, or a health professional can help
- a cervical sample (previously known as a smear test) — taken by a health professional.
Your healthcare provider can help you find out which type of test is better for you.
The vaginal swab is quick and easy to do. But this may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may be recommended to have a cervical cell sample taken (previously known as a smear test) depending on their screening history.
Some people may also prefer to have their sample taken as a cervical sample. A cervical sample also tests for HPV.
If you do a vaginal swab test and HPV is found, you will either be recommended to return to have a cervical sample taken as a follow-up test, or referred directly to colposcopy. This will depend on the type of HPV detected.
You can choose who does your screening:
- your usual doctor or practice nurse
- Māori, Pacific or women’s community health centres
- outreach services, like marae and mobile units
- Family Planning clinics
- sexual health services.
Some healthcare providers may offer a take-home option. Talk to them if you are interested in this.
You can also find screening providers in your area using the Healthpoint directory.
The National Screening Unit can also help you find someone to take your screen: freephone 0800 729 729
Support getting an appointment
Screening Support Services (SSS) can help eligible people get appointments. Eligible people can be referred to, or directly request assistance from, an SSS provider.
Eligible people include:
- Māori and Pacific wāhine or whānau aged 25 to 69, and
- anyone aged between 30 and 69 who has never had a cervical screen or has not had a cervical screen in the last 5 years.
Some SSS providers have mobile teams who make community and home visits, while others are based in clinics around the motu. The teams are a mixture of clinical and non-clinical staff, inclusive of kaiāwhina/kaimahi (support staff)
Find out more about SSS and where to access their services.
The National Cervical Screening Programme is not fully funded. However, free screening is available for women and people with a cervix who:
- are Māori or Pacific, any age
- are 30 years and over who are under-screened (have not had a test in the past 5 years), or have never had a screening test
- require follow-up testing, any age
- hold a Community Services Card, any age.
For more information about what screening tests are funded, and what follow-up tests are funded, download our guide.
If you have your period
If you have your period, you can still have a screening test as long as the bleeding is not too heavy. This could affect the test result.
It is safe to have a screening test when you are pregnant, but it is best to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
After the birth of your baby, you should wait 6 weeks to have your screening test. This allows time for the changes from pregnancy to settle.
If you need extra support
You may take a support person with you to your appointment. When booking, let your healthcare provider know if you:
- have a disability that means you need extra support
- need an interpreter.
Your HPV result will usually come back within 1 to 2 weeks. Talk to your healthcare provider about how you want to be contacted.
Most test results are normal — around 90% do not find HPV.
However, it is important to continue to have regular screening.
If HPV is found, depending on which test you have and the type of HPV found, you may be recommended to have a cervical cell sample taken or you may be referred for colposcopy for treatment if needed.
Find more information about the next steps.