- Cervical screening, also known as a smear test, looks for a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in the cervix
- The cervix is located at the top of the vagina
The smear test saves thousands of lives each year by helping to prevent cervical cancer
Importance of Screening
- For a minority of women HPV can lead to cervical cancer
- Attending screening can help identify this virus, meaning treatment can be started sooner if required. This is associated with better outcomes
Who should have a smear test?
- Women between 25-49 are invited every 3 years; those aged 50-64 are invited every 5 years for cervical screening
- The smear test is recommended:
- even if you have had the HPV vaccination
- whether or not you are sexually active
- You cannot have the smear test if:
- you are pregnant
- within 12 weeks of childbirth
- you have had a hysterectomy
Things to know before the test
- You will be notified when you are due for a smear test, with guidance on how to book
- It’s best to book a smear test for a time when you’re not on your period.
- You can book at any time if you do not have periods
- Do not use any creams on your vagina 2 days before your test
- The smear test is usually done by a female nurse or doctor; you can also request this
What to expect during your appointment
- The nurse or doctor will first confirm your details, e.g. your name and age. You may ask any questions you may have now or throughout.
- Behind a screen, you’ll need to undress (waist down). Paper towel will be provided to put over you.
- You will be asked to lie back on the bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart.
- Gently, a smooth, cylindrical speculum (see image) will be placed inside your vagina, using a small amount of lubricant.
- A soft, small brush will be used to take a sample of cells from your cervix. This shouldn’t be painful, but may be slightly uncomfortable.
- The speculum will be removed and you will be given privacy to get dressed.
- A chaperone can be requested
- You may stop the test at any time
- The test itself takes 1-2 minutes; the whole appointment may last 10 minutes
- A longer appointment can be requested to ensure your comfort
After the test
- You will get the result of your smear test in a letter, usually within a few weeks
- The test shows if HPV is present
- Occasionally, the sample is ‘inadequate’ and repeat screening is needed
- If more tests are needed, these will be explained to you in your result letter
To minimise your risk, the following measures are in place:
- Staff will be asymptomatic
- The healthcare professional will be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) during your appointment
- All surfaces patients come into contact with will be wiped down before and after each appointment
- Social distancing measures will be in place
- Appointment lengths will be approximately 10 minutes or less to minimise your exposure
To ensure the safety of our staff and other patients:
- Efforts are made to minimise the number of people in the waiting room; please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible
- Please wear a face covering
- Please adhere to social distancing measures in the waiting room and around the practice
- Please follow our one-way system
- If you or anyone in your household develop symptoms of COVID-19, please re-arrange your appointment