Change to the cervical screening start age
From November 2019, the cervical screening start age changed from 20 to 25 years.
Here's what you need to know.
Why did this change happen?
There are several good reasons why women are now being encouraged to wait until 25 to start cervical screening.
Firstly, cervical cancer in women under 25 years of age is rare. There is also good evidence that cervical screening does not appear to be effective at preventing cancer for women under 25. Since the start of the National Cervical Screening Programme in 1990, there has been no reduction in the incidence rate of cervical cancer for those under 25 years of age, as a result of screening, despite significant reductions in cancer rates for older women.
Starting cervical screening from 25 years is recommended by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency on Research on Cancer. Many other countries, for example Australia, UK, France, Belgium, Italy and Norway, start screening at 25 years of age. Some other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Finland, start screening at age 30 years.
Additionally, the introduction of human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation means that young women are increasingly protected against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Already started screening and under 25 years of age?
If you have started screening and are under 25 you will continue to be recalled by your health provider according to the screening pathway we are already using.
Not started screening yet and under 25?
If you haven’t start screening yet, you will be invited to start screening as you approach 25. You may receive your invite up to 6 months before your 25th birthday. It is safe to start screening as soon as you receive your invitation, you don't have to wait until you turn 25. Remember, if you don’t receive your invitation, you can contact your health provider directly to arrange a test when you turn 25.
Concerned about unusual symptoms?
Women of any age who experience symptoms such as unusual bleeding, a persistent discharge or pain, should talk to their healthcare provider directly.
What if I’ve had the HPV vaccine, should I still be screened?
While the HPV vaccine protects against some high-risk types of HPV, it doesn’t protect against them all, so it’s important to have cervical screening even if you have had the HPV vaccine. Combining HPV immunisation with regular cervical screening is the most effective way you can protect yourself against cervical cancer. HPV immunisation is free for eligible NZ residents aged 9 to 26 inclusive. So, if you are under 27 years and have not yet been vaccinated it’s not too late to discuss this with your health provider.
If you have any questions about this programme change, please contact your screening provider directly or call 0800 729 729.