Cervical Screening (smear test) 

Explains cervical screening, how it checks the health of your cervix, it prevents cancer, detects HPV and it a test at your GPs with a nurse.  For West Essex NHS



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.




Who is Cervical Screening for?

All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 are in invited to their cervical screening by letter.


They’re asked to book their cervical screening appointment with their GP


When your screening invite letter arrives, make every effort to book your appointment as soon as possible.

And if you’ve already booked an appointment but can no longer attend, that’s fine, please make sure you rebook at a more convenient time. 


The most important thing is that you attend as soon as it's possible for you to do so.

Information Videos:

We've compiled a series of useful videos that may help to answer any questions you may have about cervical screening:

Your Guide to Cervical Screening (from Jo's Trust)

Find out why cervical screening is important (by Grazia magazine)


Cervical Screening Test for people with learning disabilities

Cervical screening for a trans person


What happens at the Cervical Screening appointment?

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

  • 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.

If you are eligible, please make every effort to have your screening test.

Screening tests can detect a problem early, before you have any symptoms.

*Cervical Screening saves an estimated 4,500 lives in England.
Data Source - NHS Digital (Open Exeter)/Public Health England (PHE)
For more information on cervical screening


The following links have more useful information about cancer screening:

Understanding your results

For support call the
free helpline on

0808 802 8000

Guide to cervical screening by NHS West Essex.  My Health Essex.