Cervical screening, or the “smear test”, is a routine health check that identifies potentially harmful cells and changes on the cervix.
Cervical screening is not a test for cancer but catching any changes early can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills two women every day. Regular screenings can help reduce that number, which is why it’s so important you attend your screening when invited.
The nurses who deliver cervical screenings are trained to do all they can to put you at ease during your appointment. They can answer any questions or concerns you may have. However, whether you attend your screening or not, is ultimately your choice.
If you’re due to have a cervical screening, you’ll receive an invite letter in the post.
If you missed your previous appointment or are unsure if you are due a screening, please contact your GP practice who will be able to advise you.
Who is the screening for?
If you are a woman, or someone with a cervix, you will be invited for your cervical screening at regular intervals:
If you’re aged 25-49, you’ll be invited every 3 years
If you’re aged 50-64, you’ll be invited every 5 years
What happens during cervical screening?
Your screening will only take a minute or two, the whole appointment usually takes around ten minutes. During your screening, a nurse will give you a private space in which to undress from the waist down. They will also give you a paper sheet to cover yourself and will ask you to lie on the bed. They’ll then place a speculum (a hollow cylinder with a rounded edge) in your vagina. This helps them see your cervix. Then, using a small brush, they’ll gently gather some cells from your cervix. They’ll remove the speculum, put your sample in a pot and send it off for testing. You’ll get your results around two weeks later.
The nurse is there to answer any questions or concerns you may have before your appointment, so please talk to them if you’re feeling nervous. There are also a range of things you can do to put yourself at ease during your screening:
If you’d like, you can take a trusted friend or family member with you
Wear a long, loose dress or skirt. It may make you feel more covered during your screening
Take long, deep breaths to help you relax
Listen to a podcast or some music during your screening to put you at ease
Speculums come in a range of different sizes. It is a rounded cylinder which is gently opened so nurses can see your cervix. You may want to discuss the size of the speculum with the nurse before you have the test.
How to book your cervical screening appointment
If you are due a cervical screening you can book an appointment with your GP practice.
If you missed your previous screening, contact your GP practice to book an appointment today.