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Cervical screening

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or womb.

Cervical cancer develops slowly over time, usually taking many years, when abnormal cells grow on the cervix. These abnormal cells are caused by infection with high-risk types of HPV.

A cervical smear test is a screening test in which cells are taken from the cervix with a very small tool called a brush or a broom.

If you’re female and aged between 20 and 70 years, a smear test every three years can detect changes in the cervical cells which can lead to cervical cancer. Having a cervical smear every three years reduces your risk of developing cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is one of the most preventable of all cancers.

Cervical smears are available from general practitioners or nurses, marae-based or other Māori health centres, Pacific and women’s health centres, and Family Planning clinics.

Changes to cells in the cervix happen very slowly – so by having regular smears, there is a very high likelihood that any abnormal cells will be found and treated long before they become cancer.

  • The National Cervical Screening Programme recommends that women have a cervical smear test every 3 years.
  • Women who have previously had abnormal smears may need to have them more often – if you’re unsure, ask your doctor.
    • Without cervical screening about one out of 90 women will develop cervical cancer and one out of 200 will die from it.
    • With cervical screening about one out of 570 will develop cervical cancer and one out of 1280 will die from it.

Where can I have a cervical smear?

Your own doctor or practice nurse will usually be able to provide smear tests. Alternatively, the Family Planning Clinic also offers this service.

Whanganui DHB's Sexual Health Service will also provide this service as part of a sexual health clinical assessment.

The cost for a cervical smear varies and some practices provide the service for free.


Further information

To find out more about the cervical cancer screening programme, talk to your doctor, practice nurse or health clinic or contact any of the organisations listed below.

National Cervical Screening Programme

Phone:    0800 729 729



Family Planning Whanganui

Phone: (06) 347 9415 or 0800 372 546



Whanganui Regional Health Network

Phone:  (06) 348 0109


Whanganui District Health Board

Phone:  (06) 348 3400


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