A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb from the vagina.
Detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells can prevent cervical cancer.
These pages should tell you everything you need to know about cervical screening.
Testing for abnormal cells
Cervical screening isn't a test for cancer; it's a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
Most of these changes won't lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can't become cancerous.
About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.
It's possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged 30 to 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.
The cervical screening programme
The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition. Since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year.
All women who are registered with a GP are invited for cervical screening:
- aged 25 to 49 – every three years
- aged 50 to 64 – every five years
- over 65 – only women who haven't been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests
Being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing.
However, cervical screening isn't 100% accurate and doesn't prevent all cases of cervical cancer.
Screening is a personal choice and you have the right to choose not to attend.
Booking your test
Please call us on 0207 739 8525 and one of our receptionist will book you in. The screening is carried out by our practice nurse, Ruth.
If possible, try to book an appointment during the middle of your menstrual cycle (usually 14 days from the start of your last period), as this can ensure a better sample of cells is taken. It’s best to make your appointment for when you don’t have your period.
If you use a spermicide, a barrier method of contraception or a lubricant jelly, you shouldn't use these for 24 hours before the test, as the chemicals they contain may affect the test. If you are having your period at the time of your appointment, please re-book the test for a minimum of 2 days after it has finished as it is not possible to take a sample during a menstrual bleed.
If you wish to have a sexual health screen or need to discuss contraception please book a double appointment.
For more information please download this leaflet.
NHS Cervical Screening
You can also this video that explains what you
can expect to happen during cervical screening.