Joint media release | Te Whatu Ora/Te Aka Whai Ora
Early results of the new cervical screening test introduced by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora in September 2023 confirm it’s a game changer. Feedback from screentakers 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(external link), 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.(external link) If you’re due, book your test today.