Cervical Smear Tests
What is a cervical smear test?
A cervical smear is a screening test that identifies early changes to cells of the cervix (neck of womb). Early detection of abnormalities reduces the chance of developing cervical cancer.
Women will sometimes also be tested for the presence of higher risk types of HPV (human papilloma virus) which is the main cause of cervical cancer.
Do I need a cervical smear test?
If you are a woman (or born female) aged from 25* and 69 and have been sexually active, you should have regular tests. (*Starting age for smears in NZ was previously 20)
How often should I have the test?
Normal cervical screening is currently every 3 years in New Zealand.
Sometimes a smear might be done again after 1 year: After your first smear in NZ, if you have not had a smear in over 5 years, or as a follow up to abnormal changes found on a smear.
What if I ever had an abnormal smear?
It depends what the abnormality is. Most abnormalities are quite minor and will return to normal without any treatment. A few are more serious and require further investigation (starting with a colpscopy to have a closer look at the cervix). Discuss your smear results with the nurse or doctor to get a good understanding of the abnormality and plan for your care.
Where can I go for the test?
You can come to us at INP Medical Clinic in our Nelson or Richmond clinics, or visit the medical centre that you are registered with. There are also some community based health services offering free smears.
We are always happy to offer that your usual doctor receives a copy of your result. You will be given your result by INP and told when your next smear is due.
How is the test done?
The nurse or doctor will gently place a special instrument, a speculum, into your vagina to view your cervix. The cervix is gently brushed to obtain surface cells for testing. It takes a few minutes and may be slightly uncomfortable, but not usually painful.
For more information contact us or visit www.timetoscreen.nz
For more information about HPV and smears visit www.hpv.org.nz
Periods, Menopause & other Hormonal Concerns
Hormonal issues affect all ages. Pre-menstrual Syndrome, Periods, Post-Natal Depression (and other mental health issues), Gender Dysphoria and Menopause are common concerns which can impact lifestyle.
Some women have period problems from their first period, and others can develop problems over time. Heavy periods may affect iron levels causing fatigue, low mood, affecting general health. For periods that are really painful or heavy or long (affecting school/work/ sport) it is worth seeing the nurses/doctors at INP Medical Clinic to discuss management options. There are treatments for most period concerns and hormonal fluctuations caused by the menstrual cycle.
It is useful to keep a diary or use an app for 3 months, noting period days, and any concerns such as mood changes, bloating, pain, heavy bleeding. Some apps we can recommend are; Flo and Cycles.
If you have had a baby and are just not coping, you are not alone. The first step is to tell someone. The management depends on the severity of your experience.
Menopause often causes hormonal fluctuations which impact life. Management might include changes to lifestyle (exercise, stress management, nutrition) and medications. Hormonal treatments work well for many women. There is a specific range of hormonal treatment for menopause, which can be tailored to each woman. Come and see one of INP’s doctors or nurse practitioners to discuss the options.
Some useful links:
Painful/ heavy periods: www.nzendo.org.nz
Postnatal depression: www.pada.nz
Transgender NZ: www.genderminorities.com
Breast Cancer – what are my chances?
In New Zealand about 1 in 10 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age.
Three quarters of the women who get breast cancer are over 50 years of age. Most women who develop breast cancer have no close relatives with the disease.
What can I do?
Know what your breasts are like normally; when washing or dressing. This is more important after the age of 40.
Feel your breasts and look at them in the mirror. Get to know how your breasts change at different times of
the month and also as you grow older. If you do feel something in one breast which seems different than usual,
check your other breast. If you can feel the same thing in both breasts it is probably normal. If you aren’t sure, contact us at INP or your doctor.
What am I looking for?
The most common sign of breast cancer is usually a lump, often painless.
Many women have lumpy breasts, so it is important for you to know what your breasts usually feel like and be able to recognise any changes. What you are looking for is a lump which has just appeared or stands out from the rest.
Other signs: dimpling in the skin of the breast, any change in one nipple, a turned-in nipple, scaly skin around the nipple, a discharge which persists without squeezing.
Where to from here?
We have several ways of checking a breast lump or change. You will probably be referred to a specialist where
you may have a mammogram (breast x-ray), but on its own this is not enough to show if the lump is cancer or not.
At some stage the lump, or a sample of it, will be removed and tested.
What if it is cancer?
Most women with breast cancer have surgery, but often only part of the breast will be removed.
Treatment may also include radiation, chemotherapy (drugs) and hormones. Research shows that good ongoing support is also important for recovery. Nearly all women whose cancers were discovered when small, and have not spread, are alive and well 10 to 20 years after treatment.
What is Breastscreen Aotearoa?
A free national breast x-ray (mammogram) service that helps check early on, to reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer.
This programme is offered to all women in New Zealand aged 45 to 69 years who have NO symptoms.
Contact BreastScreen Aotearoa on 0800 270200 or visit www.timetoscreen.nz