Done by the female practice Nurse, Saturday clinics also available.
- Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.
- It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer.
- All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.
- During the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix.
- The sample is checked for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix. These are called “high risk” types of HPV.
- If these types of HPV are not found, you do not need any further tests.
- If these types of HPV are found, the sample is then checked for any changes in the cells of your cervix. These can then be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
- You’ll get your results by letter, usually in about 2 weeks. It will explain what happens next.
When you’ll be invited for cervical screening in England
|Age||When you’re invited|
|Under 25||Up to 6 months before you turn 25|
|25 to 49||Every 3 years|
|50 to 64||Every 5 years|
|65 or older||Only if 1 of your last 3 tests was abnormal|
You can book an appointment as soon as you get a letter.
If you missed your last cervical screening, you do not need to wait for a letter to book an appointment.
How cervical screening is done
- You’ll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You’ll be given a sheet to put over you.
- The nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. Sometimes you may need to change position during the test.
- They’ll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may be used.
- The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
- Using a soft brush, they’ll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
- The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.
During cervical screening a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix for testing.
The test itself should take less than 5 minutes. The whole appointment should take about 10 minutes.
It’s usually done by a female nurse or doctor.
Before starting, they should explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you have.
When your results should arrive
The nurse or doctor will tell you when you can expect your results letter.
If you have waited longer than you expected, call your GP surgery to see if they have any updates.
Try not to worry if it is taking a long time to get your results letter.
It does not mean anything is wrong, and most people will have a normal result.
What your results mean
Your results letter will explain what was tested for and what your results mean.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to come back in 3 months to have the test again. This does not mean there’s anything wrong, it’s because the results were unclear. This is sometimes called an inadequate result.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is not found in your sample
Most people will not have HPV (an HPV negative result).
This means your risk of getting cervical cancer is very low. You do not need any further tests to check for abnormal cervical cells, even if you have had these in the past.
You’ll be invited for screening again in 3 or 5 years.
HPV is found in your sample
Your results letter will explain what will happen next if HPV is found in your sample (an HPV positive result).
You may need:
- another cervical screening test in 1 year
- a different test to look at your cervix (a colposcopy)
There are 2 different kinds of HPV positive result:
|Result||What it means|
|HPV found (HPV positive) but no abnormal cells||You’ll be invited for screening in 1 year and again in 2 years if you still have HPV. If you still have HPV after 3 years, you may need to have a colposcopy.|
|HPV found (HPV positive) and abnormal cells||You’ll be asked to have a colposcopy.|
Try not to put off cervical screening. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.