Community Health Centre

Cervical screening / Smear Test

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

Why cervical screening is important

Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

How cervical screening helps prevent cancer

  • 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). Find out more about what HPV is.
  • 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 checked for abnormal cell changes.
  • If abnormal cells are found, they can be treated so they do not get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.

Who’s at risk of cervical cancer

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

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

Find out more about the causes of cervical cancer

You’re still at risk of cervical cancer if:

  • you’ve had the HPV vaccine – it does not protect you from all types of HPV, so you’re still at risk of cervical cancer
  • 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 have HPV for a long time without knowing it
  • you’re a lesbian or bisexual – you’re at risk if you’ve had any sexual contact
  • you’re a trans man with a cervix – read about if trans men should have cervical screening
  • you’ve had a partial hysterectomy that did not remove all of your cervix

If you’ve never had any kind of sexual contact with a man or woman, you may decide not to go for cervical screening when you’re invited. But you can still have a test if you want to. If you’re not sure whether to have cervical screening, talk to your GP or nurse.

How cervical screening is done

  1. You’ll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You’ll be given a sheet to put over you.
  2. 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.
  3. They’ll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may be used.
  4. The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
  5. Using a soft brush, they’ll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
  6. The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.

The cervical screening test itself should take less than 5 minutes. The whole appointment should take about 10 minutes.

Video: how cervical screening is done

This video shows someone having cervical screening. It shows an illustrated view of the inside of the body and explains what happens during the test.

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 you from cervical cancer.

Risks of cervical screening

You may have some light bleeding or spotting after cervical screening. This should stop within a few hours. If abnormal cells are found and you need treatment, there are some risks, such as:

  • treating cells that may have gone back to normal on their own
  • bleeding or an infection
  • you may be more likely to have a baby early if you get pregnant in the future – but this is rare

For more information to help you decide, read the NHS cervical screening leaflet on the GOV.UK website.

How to book cervical screening

You’ll be sent an invitation letter in the post or we will sent you SMS when it’s time to book your cervical screening appointment. Here at our surgery, cervical screening is done by a female nurse.

To arrange a cervical screening appointment, please call us.

How to opt out

If you do not want to be invited for screening, contact us and ask to be taken off from cervical screening list. You can ask us to put you back on the list at any time if you change your mind.

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