This page has been written by Dr Wilkinson. It is also available in Chinese.
What is cervical screening?
The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina. Cervical screening aim to check the cervix and prevents cancer; it is not a test to see if you have cancer.
Is cervical screening painful?
No- it is not painful but it does involve a small procedure to go into your vagina to reach the cervix- which sits at the back. A small soft brush is then used to gently brush off some cells on the cervix. The only discomfort felt is usually when the soft plastic instrument called ‘speculum’ is used to open up the vagina to enable the cervix to be seen. Your nurse or doctor who perform the screening will put lots of lubricants to reduce any discomfort. The procedure itself only takes 5 to 10mins. You can resume your daily activity after that
Can I have cervical screening if I have had sex the night before?
Having sex the night before should not affect the results of smear but certain things that are used for contraception like spermicides or lubricants on the condoms/diaphragm might. It is best to avoid the above for 24hrs if in used.
Can I still go for a smear if I’m pregnant?
It’s recommended that you delay your test until after you have had your baby (3months after) because the results will be harder to read.
Can I still go for a smear if I am on my period?
It is best to avoid smear whilst you are on your period as the flow of your period can make it difficult to pick up the cells from the cervix
In my culture- hymen is indictive of virginity – Will my hymen be broken during cervical smear?
Yes- it might be as the speculum used in opening up the vagina can break the hymen- please discuss with your doctor if you are concern
Do I need a smear if I was a virgin?
It is still recommended as HPV that can cause cervical cancer can be transmitted through any skin to skin contact or sharing sex toys and a very small proportion of cervical cancer (<0.03%) is not caused by HPV so having your cervix ‘looked’ at (for abnormality) as part of the screening process is important
Who should be invited for cervical screening?
Women, non-binary people and trans men who have a cervix should take part in the cervical screening. You will receive your first invitation to have your cervical screening when you turn 25. Between the ages of 25 and 49, you will be offered a cervical screening every 3 years. After you turn 50 you will be offered the screening every 5 years until you turn 64. If you are aged 65 or over, you will only be invited for a cervical screening if 1 of your last 3 tests was abnormal.
Do I have to take part in cervical screening?
No- it is entirely your choice. However; early changes on the cervix usually gives no symptoms and if left untreated- they can turn into cancer after 5-20years so it is important you attend.
If you feel strongly you do not want to take part in cervical screening- you might have had it already privately or in another country- please let your GP surgery know so they can amend your records. Don’t worry- you are welcome to change your mind at any time- saying no now- doesn’t mean you cant have it in the future
What happen after my appointment?
The result will takes 2-3weeks. Your results are usually sent to you directly to your home address in a letter. Your letter will explain what your results mean and what will happen next.
If human papilloma virus (HPV) is not found in your sample, you will be screened in 3years again (if you are 25-49years); in 5years if you are 50-64years.
If HPV is found in your cells, this is called an HPV positive result. Your sample will be furthered looked for abnormal cells:
If HPV found but no abnormal cells. You’ll be invited for screening in 1 year time. if you still have HPV in subsequent test after 3 times in total, you may need to have a colposcopy.
If HPV found and also abnormal cells. You will be asked to have a colposcopy.
For more information about colposcopy here: Colposcopy – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Do I need to go for a smear test if I’ve had the HPV vaccine?
Yes. The vaccine does not protect you from all types of HPV, so you still need to go for a smear test.
I have had my smear abroad, can I ignore the smear?
If you have had a smear abroad, there is no need to have it again in the UK within the 3 year time. We do ask that you let us know when you had the smear. We will then be able to amend this on your records and this will stop us contacting you about this matter. You can message us through the website or via email address firstname.lastname@example.org