Cervical screening involves taking a sample of the cells from your cervix and testing for high risk human papilloma virus (HRHPV).
It’s important to attend regular screening appointments, which you’ll be notified about by letter from your local screening service.
In England, attendance for screening prevents 70% of deaths from cervical cancer, however, if all eligible women attended regularly then it is thought 83% would be preventable.
Cervical screening is NOT a test for cancer. All samples are firstly tested for HRHPV, which is the virus which causes cervical cancer.
HRHPV is a very common virus, passed on by close skin to skin contact. Many women will come into contact with it but most immune systems will clear the virus within two years.
Therefore, cervical cancer is rare.
Who can have cervical screening?
All women between the ages of 25 to 64 are eligible for screening within the NHS cervical screening program. This includes trans men who have a cervix.
Routine recall is every three years between the ages of 25-49 and every five years 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, giving you time to arrange an appointment by the time you are 25.
How to access cervical screening services
To receive an invite, you must be registered with a general practice (GP).
Should you choose, 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 at local 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.
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
Results and follow up
You will be put onto routine screening.
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 examined more closely and follow up as appropriate.
Do not use vaginal medications or lubricants in the two days before cervical screening, as these can affect the test results.
Useful links for further information on cervical screening, including videos about the test and information in foreign languages can be found at:Jo's Trust Cervical screening leaflet