Cervical Screening (smear test)
Who should attend cervical screenings?
All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64.
Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for an NHS cervical screening every 3 years between the ages of 25 and 49 and every 5 years between the ages of 50 and 64.
If you're a trans man, trans woman or are non-binary you may be invited automatically, however, if you have concerns and feel your invite should have been sent, please talk to your GP practice.
How do I know when to attend?
You'll automatically get your first invite for cervical screening around or before your 25th birthday. You'll be invited every 3 years until you turn 49 and then every 5 years until you turn 64.
It’s important that you book and attend your cervical screening as soon as it's possible for you to do so.
If you are eligible, please make every effort to attend your cervical screening.
Cervical screening can detect a problem early, before you have any symptoms and even before cervical cancer has developed.
Important: You need to be registered with a GP practice to be invited for cervical screening.
Are you concerned that you’ve missed your cervical screening?
If you’ve misplaced your invite or believe you are due to have a cervical screening, please contact your GP practice.
If you have misplaced your invite your GP practice will be able to book a cervical screening appointment.
However, if you are unsure when you need to attend, your GP practice will be able to advise you when your next cervical screening is due.
Why is cervical screening important?
Cervical screening (previously known as the smear test) is important as it helps to prevent cancer and saves an estimated 4,500* lives in England each year.
It checks the health of your cervix and tests for a virus called high risk human papilloma virus (HPV).
Finding high risk HPV early means you can be monitored for abnormal cell changes which if found can be treated so they do not get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
Important – try not to put off cervical screening. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.
*Cervical Screening saves an estimated 4,500 lives in England.
Data Source - NHS Digital (Open Exeter)/Public Health England (PHE)
What happens at the Cervical Screening appointment?
Your cervical screening appointment will usually take place in your GP practice and will be performed by a specially trained nurse.
At the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix for testing.
The test itself should take less than 5 minutes.
The whole appointment should take about 10 minutes.
wear something you can leave on during the test, like a skirt or long jumper
if you feel concerned, bring someone with you for support
try breathing exercises to help you relax – ask the nurse about these
ask the nurse to use a smaller speculum
ask the nurse about lying in a different position – such as on your side with your knees pulled up to your chest
bring something to listen to or read during the test
The sample is then sent to a lab and is checked for certain types of human papillomavaris (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix.
Your cervical screening results will automatically be posted to you, usually within two weeks.
“As a former senior practice nurse, I have seen many women and people over the years for their cervical screening ( smear test). My advice to those attending for their test is simple -try to relax. The test is very quick, and the nurse will do everything they can to alleviate your concerns and make you feel comfortable. Nurses and doctors are highly trained professional people who are used to seeing and caring for patients and see all aspects of the human body. Don’t feel embarrassed, as this quick test could save your life, and help prevent future health complications….don’t delay call today.” Advice from Emma Harnett, a Macmillan Primary Care Nurse Facilitator Workforce and Education Lead Nurse.
We've compiled a series of useful videos that may help to answer any questions you may have about cervical screening:
For more information on cervical screening
The following links have more useful information about cancer screening: