Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer screening

What is cervical screening?

  • 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.

Why is cervical screening important?

  • Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical 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 these types of HPV are found during screening (an HPV positive result), the sample of cells is then checked for abnormal changes. If abnormal cells are not treated, they may turn into cervical cancer.
Listen to Beth explain why cervical screening is so important.

How to book your appointment

  • All women and people with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 should go for regular cervical screening. You’ll get a letter in the post inviting you to make an appointment.
  • You can book an appointment as soon as you get a letter.

When you’ll be invited for cervical screening in England

AgeWhen you’re invited
Under 25Up to 6 months before you turn 25
25 – 49Every 3 years
50 – 64 Every 5 years
65 or older Only if 1 of your last 3 tests was abnormal

What happens at your appointment?

  • 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.

What to expect from a cervical screening appointment

Listen to a Registered Nurse explain a cervical screening appointment.
Watch a cervical screening appointment.