- 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.
- The nurse or doctor will tell you when you can expect your results letter.
When will I be invited?
All women and people with a cervix between the ages of 26 and 64 should go for regular cervical screening. You will get a letter in the post inviting you to make an appointment.
In England, the following criteria is followed:
- Under 25 – Up to six months before you turn 25
- 25-49 – Every three years
- 50-64 – Every five years
- 65 or older – Only if one of your last three tests was abnormal
Considerations when booking an appointment
- Please let us know if you would like someone else to be in the room with you (a chaperone) – this could be someone you know, another nurse or a trained member of staff.
- If you think you may need more time, ask us to book a longer appointment, we are here to help and want you to be as comfortable as possible.
- Let us know if you’re finding the test more difficult after going through the menopause, we can prescribe some vaginal oestrogen cream or pessary before the test.
- Ask us to use a smaller speculum (a smooth, tube-shaped tool that’s put into your vagina so we can see your cervix)
Booking an appointment
As soon as you receive an invitation letter, you can book an appointment. We would advise booking an appointment when you are not having a period – also try to avoid the two days before you bleed (if you do not have periods, you can book at any time).
You can either telephone the Practice on 01822 613517 or if you would prefer not to speak with someone, you can book via GP Online Services on the NHS App or other third-party app. All our nurses are female.
At your appointment
Try not to be embarrassed about talking to the nurse or GP on the day – we are highly trained to make you feel comfortable and provide support.
The standard appointment time for a test is 20 minutes, however the test itself should take less than five minutes. The rest of the appointment is used to explain the procedure, why it is done, any questions you may have and time to make you feel relaxed.
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.
You cervical screening results are usually sent to you in a letter not sent by the Practice.
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:
A lot of the information on this page has been obtained from NHS.UK.
Cervical screening – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust | Cervical Cancer Charity (jostrust.org.uk)
About cervical screening | Cervical cancer | Cancer Research UK