Early feedback on the new cervical screening test introduced by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora in September 2023 indicate it’s a game changer. Feedback from screen-takers across the country is that they are seeing more unscreened people coming forward for an HPV self-test.
The new HPV primary screening test includes the option of a quick and simple swab that people can choose to do it as a self-test or have a clinician assist with. It detects the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes more than 95 percent of cervical cancers.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Each year, around 180 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Aotearoa and about 60 people die from it.
Prior to the introduction of the new test, the only method for cervical screening was a cervical sample, (previously known as a smear test). This was a procedure many people didn’t look forward to, and some people even put it off. The old screening method (using a speculum) is still available if people want it.
Dr Jane O’Hallahan, Clinical Lead, Screening, Te Whatu Ora says, “The new test offers more control and choice over how cervical screening is done, and we are already hearing first-hand about the difference the self-swab test is making. Several of those screened at launch events in September told us they had avoided screening for over a decade. They simply didn’t feel comfortable with the only option previously available.”
“These early reports are very encouraging, and we will be monitoring trends carefully in the coming months.”
These results come just in time for 17 November - the Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action, which is part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem.
A range of activities will be held across Aotearoa to mark the day of action. These include pop-up testing stations on Te Wānanga o Aotearoa campuses across the motu in partnership with hauora Māori partners and screening service providers. There will also be a pop-up testing station at Onehunga’s Laka Gallery which will involve Pacific fashion store TAV Clothing.
Selah Hart, Maiaka Hāpori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority, says improvements like this makes all the hard mahi worthwhile.
“Our sector has adapted well to the new systems and processes to make this positive change happen. It’s about removing barriers, particularly for our wāhine Māori who are currently under screened, and therefore more at risk of late diagnosis.”
“We look forward to seeing further increased results as the word spreads about how easy it is for people to screen now.”
Cervical screening is for eligible women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 69. It is free for people aged 30 and over who have never had a cervical screen or who haven’t had a screen in the last five years. It is also free for Community Services Card holders and Māori and Pacific people.
To check if you're due or overdue for cervical screening, contact your healthcare provider. If you don’t have a preferred healthcare provider, Screening Support Services can help you find one and book your test. Freephone 0800 729 729. Further information about the NCSP is available at www.timetocervicalscreen.nz. If you’re due, book your test today.
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A spokesperson can be made available for interviews on request.
Media are invited to attend any of the pop-up clinics detailed below
Pop-up spaces will be open between 11am and 1:30pm at the following Te Wānanga o Aotearoa campuses on Friday 17 November, with two campuses hosting pop-ups on Thursday 16 November:
- Raroera campus, 510 Te Rapa Road, Hamilton. Friday 17 Nov, 9am-11am
- Mangakōtukutuku campus, 254 Ohaupo Road, Glenview, Hamilton. Friday 17 Nov, 11.30am-1.15pm
- Waiwhero campus, 2 Depot Street, Rotorua, Friday 17 11am-1.30pm
- Whirikōkā campus, 630 Childers Road, Gisborne. Friday 17 Nov, 11.00am-1.30pm
- Papaiōea campus, Centennial Drive, Palmerston North. Friday 17 Nov, 11.00am-1.30pm
- Porirua campus, 3/5 Heriot Drive, Elsdon, Porirua. Friday 17 Nov, 11am-1.30pm
- Whangārei campus, 12 Murdoch Crescent, Raumanga, Whangarei. Fri 17 Nov, 9.30am-12pm
· Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.
· Having regular cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer, along with HPV Immunisation.
· Around 85% of people who develop cervical cancer in New Zealand have either never been screened or have been screened infrequently.
· HPV primary screening detects the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a common virus that causes most cervical cell changes and almost all cervical cancers.
· Those who are eligible for free cervical screening include women and any person with a cervix who:
o are aged 30 or over and have never had a screening test or are under-screened
o require follow-up testing
o are Māori or Pacific
o hold a Community Services Card.
· Free cervical screening will play a critical role in helping more people to access the programme and detect cancer earlier.
· HPV is a very common virus, passed on by intimate skin-to-skin contact or any sexual activity. Most people will have it at some time in their lives and in most cases, it clears up by itself.
· There are many types of HPV. Persistent infections with high-risk types can, over time, lead to cervical cancer. HPV testing will find more pre-cancers and prevent more cases of cervical cancer, supported by the speculum and colposcopy tests within the pathways.
· HPV primary screening will support new clinical pathways that will provide greater choice to participants to lift uptake, increase screening in priority groups and reduce mortality rates in our communities.
· If you're a woman or person with a cervix, aged 25-69, and have ever had intimate skin-to-skin or sexual contact you should have cervical screening every 5 years (or every 3 years if immune compromised).
· Cervical cancer often takes 10 years or more to develop. Because HPV testing is more sensitive in finding the virus that causes the cell changes, it is safe to wait longer between screening tests.
· HPV immunisation is free for ages 9 to 26. It's provided through most schools in Year 7 or Year 8, and is also available from your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider. HPV immunisation helps protect your tamariki against a number of cancers later in life.
Further information about the NCSP is available at www.timetoscreen.nz