Cervical Screening: Smear Tests




Women and people with a cervix aged between 24 and 64 should have a cervical screening every 3 to 5 years to help prevent cervical cancer. The screening is quick and painless and can be done here in the practice.

If you are aged 24 or over and have never had a smear test, or if it has been more than 3 to 5 years since your last screening, you should arrange an appointment with our Practice Nurse. You should not have the test while you are having a period or in the 4 days before or after your period as this can affect the sample.


What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. It is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating early abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer in the cervix (the neck of the womb).

A sample of cells is taken from the cervix for analysis. A doctor or nurse inserts an instrument (a speculum) to open the patient's vagina and uses a spatula to sweep around the cervix. Most people consider the procedure to be only mildly uncomfortable.

Early detection and treatment can prevent 75 per cent of cancers developing but like other screening tests, it is not perfect. It may not always detect early cell changes that could lead to cancer.


Who is eligible for cervical screening?

All women and people with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years. Eligible patients should receive their first invitation for routine screening at 25. The NHS call and recall system invites people who are registered with a GP as female. It also keeps track of any follow-up investigation and, if all is well, recalls the patient for screening in three or five years' time. It is, therefore, important that all eligible patients ensure we have their correct name and address and should inform us if these change.

If you are a transgender man registered with your GP as female, you will be sent invitations for cervical screening. If you are registered as male, you will not receive invitations but your GP can arrange an appointment for you if you have a cervix. If you are a trans woman you do not need cervical screening.

Why are women and people with a cervix under 25 not invited?

This is because changes in the young cervix are normal. If they were thought to be abnormal this could lead to unnecessary treatment which could have consequences for childbearing. Any abnormal changes can be easily picked up and treated from the age of 25. Rarely, younger women and people with a cervix experience symptoms such as unexpected bleeding or bleeding after intercourse. In this case they should see their GP for advice.


Why are women and people with a cervix over 65 not invited?

Women and people with a cervix aged 65 and over who have had three consecutive negative results are taken out of the call recall system. The natural history and progression of cervical cancer means it is highly unlikely that such patients will go on to develop the disease. Women and people with a cervix aged 65 and over who have never had a test are entitled to one.


What about women and people with a cervix who are not sexually active?

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites all women and people with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 for cervical screening. But if a patient has never been sexually active with a man, then the research evidence shows that their chance of developing cervical cancer is very low indeed. We do not say no risk, only very low risk. In these circumstances, the patient might choose to decline the invitation for cervical screening on this occasion. If a patient is not currently sexually active but has had male partners in the past, then we would recommend that they continue screening.