Cervical Screening

Cervical Screening

Cervical screening can help prevent cervical cancer before it starts


Cervical screening (previously known as a smear test), is a test to check the health of the cervix and to prevent cervical cancer. It’s offered to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 years old.

What is cervical screening?

All women aged 25 to 64 are invited by letter to cervical screening to check the health of their cervix. It is not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer.

You’ll be sent an invitation letter in the post when it’s time to book your cervical screening appointment. Your letter will tell you where you can go for your appointment and how to book. These are normally done at your GP surgery by a female nurse or doctor. For more information: How to book cervical screening

Accessing cervical screening with the right support for people with a learning disability:

Why cervical screening is important

Cervical screening checks the health of your cervix and helps find any abnormal changes before they can turn into cancer.

It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer.

Cervical screening checks a sample of cells from your cervix for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

These types of HPV can cause abnormal changes to the cells in your cervix and are called “high risk” types of HPV.

If high risk types of HPV are found during screening, the sample of cells is also check for abnormal cell changes.

If abnormal cells are found, they can be treated so they do not get a change to turn into cervical cancer.

For more information, click the link below:

HPV is the name of a very common group of viruses.

Most people will get some type of HPV during their lives, so it is very common and nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

You can get HPV from any kind of skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, not just from penetrative sex.

This includes:

  • vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • sharing sex toys

Some types of high risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. In most cases your body will get rid of HPV without it causing any problems – but sometimes it can stay in your body for a long time.

If high risk types of HPV stay in your body, they can cause changes to the cells in your cervix. It is these changes that may become cancerous if not treated.

If you do not have a high risk type of HPV it’s very unlikely you’ll get cervical cancer, even if you’ve had abnormal cell changes in your cervix before.

For more information, click the button below:

If you have a cervix and have had any kind of sexual contact, with a man or woman, you could get cervical cancer. This is because nearly all cervical cancers are cause by infection with risk types of HPV.

You are also still at risk of cervical cancer if you:

  • have had the HPV vaccine, as it does not protect your from all types of HPV
  • you’ve only had 1 sexual partner – you can get HPV the first time you’re sexually active
  • you’ve had the same partner, or not had sex, for a long time – you can still have HPV without knowing it
  • you’re lesbian or bisexual – you’re at risk if you’ve had any sexual contact
  • you’re a trans man with a cervix
  • you’ve had a partial hysterectomy that did not remove all of your cervix

Cervical screening is a choice

It’s your choice if you want to go for cervical screening. But cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect your from cervical cancer. To opt-out contact you GP, you can always be re-added in the future.

If you’ve never had any kind of sexual contact with a man or a woman, you may decide not to go for cervical screening when you are invited – but you can still have the test if you want to.

If you are unsure as to whether to have cervical screening, please contact your GP/Nurse.

Your cervical screening results

Your cervical screening results are usually sent to you in a letter. Sometimes you may be asked to call you GP to get the results.

The nurse or doctor will tell you when you can expect your results letter. If you’ve waited longer than you expected, call your GP surgery to see if they have any updates. Try not to worry if it is taking time to receive your results letter, it does not mean anything is wrong, and most people will have a normal result.

What your cervical screening results mean?

Your cervical screening results letter will explain if HPV was found in your sample, what your result means and what happens next.

You may be asked to come back in 3 months to re-take test – this does not mean anything wrong, this is normally due to the results being unclear/inadequate.

Most people will not have HPV (HPV negative result).

This means your risk of getting cervical caner is very low. You do not need further tests to check for abnormal cell changes in your cervix, even if you’ve had these in the past.

You’ll be invited for screening again in 3 or 5 years.

Your results letter will explain what will happen next if HPV if found in your sample (HPV positive result).

There are two different kinds of HPV positive result:

ResultWhat it means
HPV found, but no abnormal cell changesYou’ll be invited for screening 1 year and again 1 year later if you still have HPV. If you still have HPV after 2 years, you’ll be asked to have colposcopy.
HPV found and abnormal cell changesYou’ll be asked to have a colposcopy.

More information and advice

For more information and useful links for support and advice: