Cervical screening involves taking a sample of the cells from your cervix and testing the sample for high risk human papilloma virus (HRHPV). Cervical screening helps prevent illness and death from cervical cancer.
In England, current attendance for screening prevents 70% of deaths from cervical cancer, however, if all eligible women attended regularly then it is thought 83% is preventable.
Cervical screening is NOT a test for cancer. All samples are firstly tested for HRHPV. It is this virus which causes cervical cancer.
HRHPV is a very common virus, passed on by close skin to skin contact. Most women will come into contact with it, however, most women’s immune systems will clear the virus within two years.
Therefore, cervical cancer is rare.
Results and follow up
You will be put onto routine screening interval
HRHPV Positive but no cell changes seen
Repeat cervical screening in 12 months to check if the virus has been cleared by your immune system
HRHPV Positive and cells changes identified
You will be referred to colposcopy where your cervix is closely examined and follow up as appropriate
Who can have cervical screening?
All women between the ages of 25 to 64 who have a cervix are eligible for screening within the NHS cervical screening program. This includes trans men who have a cervix.
Routine recall is three yearly between the ages of 25-49 and five yearly from age 50-64. If you have retro viral infection then you will routinely be screened on an annual basis.
The first invite letter is sent to you at the age of 24.5, giving you time to consider screening and arrange an appointment by the time you are 25. However, once receiving an invite you can attend for screening even if you have not reached your 25th birthday.
How to access cervical screening services
To receive an invite, you must be registered with a General Practice (GP).
You can attend a sexual health clinic for screening without being registered with a GP, but you will not receive an invite for this.
Appointments for routine cervical screening are available at your GP and sexual health services (please note this excludes Northumberland sexual health).
It is useful to take your letter of invite to your appointment but don’t worry if you do not have it with you.
When not to attend for a cervical screening appointment
Cervical screening cannot be performed if you are having your period, even if you think you have finished your bleed it is wise to wait a few days longer before attending for screening.
Do not use vaginal medications or lubricants in the two days before cervical screening, as these can affect the test results.
12 weeks must also be left before cervical screening if you have had any of the following:
- Termination of pregnancy
- Insertion of coil
- Removal of cervical polyp or any procedure where the cells on the cervix have been disturbed
- Inadequate cervical screen result
Useful links for further information on cervical screening including videos on the test and information in foreign languages can be found at:Jo's Trust Cervical Screening Leaflet