Do I need a cervical smear test if I've never had sex with a man?

Research shows your risk of developing cervical cancer is very low if you’ve never been sexually active. You may decide that you don’t want to have a cervical screening test when you are invited. However, you can still have a test if you want one.

If you’ve ever had sex or been sexually active, you should have regular cervical screening tests, regardless of your sexuality.

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening is a method of preventing cervical cancer by detecting abnormal cells in a woman’s cervix (neck of the womb). Most cases cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is passed on by skin-to-skin contact. Any woman who has had sex, including that with another woman, may have come into contact with HPV and should therefore have cervical screening.

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme aims to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer by regularly screening all women aged 25 to 64.

Read more information about when cervical screening should be done, including who should have a cervical screening test and who may not need one.

Read the answers to more questions about women’s health.

Further information:


Video: smear test

A smear test is a screening method to detect pre-cancerous cells. A gynaecologist explains what the test involves, why and how often you should have it.

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Next review due:

Page last reviewed: 16/01/2014

Next review due: 15/01/2016