Preventing cervical cancer
Cervical cancer usually develops very slowly, so it’s easy for us to detect and treat cell changes early.
Treatment is as simple as removing the affected tissue, and has a really high success rate.
The first signs show up as ‘abnormal’ cells, which can take more than 10 years to develop into cancer. That’s why you usually have a smear test every 3 years – this gives us the best chance to find cell changes early.
How often to have smear tests
Most women will only need their test taken every 3 years. If you need it more frequently, we’ll let you know.
You may need more frequent tests if:
- it is your second test – this should be 1 year after your first
- it has been more than 5 years since your last test
- your results show cell changes that need further investigation
- you’ve had treatment to remove abnormal cells
- you have a weakened immune system
- you are taking certain prescription drugs, like high dose long-term immune suppressants (anti-rejection medications) – please check with your doctor.
If you notice any symptoms like unusual bleeding, you should talk to your doctor straight away.
Risk factors for cervical cancer
Risk factors for developing cervical cancer include:
- a persistent HPV infection
- not being immunised against HPV.
The best protection for cervical cancer is being immunised against HPV and having regular smear tests.
Information on HPV immunisation can be found on the Ministry of Health website.