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Cervical Smear Tests: Why it’s time to book your screening

Colleen Bowring By: March 1, 2023
Pap Smears NZ | Highbrook Medical

Does getting a Cervical Smear seem a bit intimidating? We understand that sometimes the idea of screening is confusing, especially if you aren’t completely sure why you need it. Fortunately, our wonderful nurse Colleen Bowring is here to demystify the facts about pap smears. Learn how to prepare for cervial screening; spot cervical cancer or HPV infection symptoms, and get test results.

What is a cervical screening smear test?

Quite simply, cervical screening is a simple routine check-up on your cervix to check for cervical cancer. It’s also known as a pap smear test. Typically, we suggest you have regular smear tests roughly every 3 years unless recommended otherwise by your GP or Nurse. Importantly, regular Smear tests allow for early identification of cervical cancer. So, the earlier we can catch cervical cancer, the sooner we can stop its spread. 

Who needs a smear test, and what age is good to get your first pap smear?

We suggest that you have regular cervical screenings if you:

  • Are a woman, trans or non-binary person with a cervix
  • Aged between 25-69
  • Have ever been sexually active

The below symptoms may be caused by a number of different conditions, including cervical cancer. We encourage you to book a cervical screening if you have experienced any of the following; 

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods (or menopause) 
  • Blood from the vagina after sex
  • Unusual pain during sex
  • Abnormal discharge from the vaginal area

What is an HPV Infection and how to stop its spread, especially for teens 

Human Papillomavirus, or HPV as you might know it, is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Unfortunately, it affects a high number of people who have been sexually active at some point in their lives. In clinical terms, it is the infection that causes almost all cervical cancers. It’s actually very common as HPV infections spread through sexual contact. So around 4 out of 5, people will have an HPV infection at any point in their lives, and there is no need to be embarrassed if you get it!

In most instances, HPV will clear within 2 years, particularly if you’re a woman under 30 years of age. In fact, it is likely that you wouldn’t have known that you had it without a smear test. However, this is not always the case. For some people, an HPV infection can become persistent, and develop into cervical cancer.

Why getting the HPV Immunisation is so important (for boys and girls!)

In NZ, HPV immunisations are free for everyone aged between 9-26 years. Getting immunised against HPV will help to reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. However, although immunizing against HPV can help prevent infection, women should continue to get regular cervical screenings. This is because there are 9 different types of HPV. Unfortunately, the HPV vaccine does not effectively protect against all of them. 

HPV immunisations aren’t just for girls either. Boys are just as susceptible to HPV infections as girls are. Consequently, many boys have suffered from cancers caused by HPV, notably in the mouth, throat, anus or penis. Furthermore, it is important that boys get immunised as HPV is spread through sexual contact. This means that the boys will not only protect themselves against HPV infections but also ensure that they are not passing on the infections to their sexual partners later in life. 

There is no research to show that administering the vaccine at the age of 11 or 12 has any influence on when your child becomes sexually active. Better yet, studies have shown that getting vaccinated at ages 11-12 years, has led to more responsible decisions regarding sexual health in the future compared to those that’re unvaccinated. 

Preparing for your cervical screening

  • We understand that getting a Pap Smear is not especially fun, especially if it’s your first time. To be honest, it’s not because of the mometary discomfort, but more because women might feel a bit embarrassed. That’s normal! But your nurse or GP will help to support you through this process. Furthermore, there are a couple of things you can do to make this process easier and more comfortable;

    • wear a skirt that you can leave on.
    • use the sheet or blanket provided to keep yourself covered and comfortable.
    • bring a friend or a whānau member for support. Better yet, get screened together.

Getting your screening results

Once your screening is completed, your test results will be sent to a lab for testing. Roughly 90% of all cervical screening test results come back completely normal. If your results are abnormal, your GP will contact you and answer any questions you may have. 

Book your cervical smear test with your GP now through our online patient portal!

Understanding HPV Infections

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