- Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.
- It's not a test for cancer, it's a test to help prevent cancer.
- All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.
- During the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix.
- The sample is checked for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix. These are called "high risk" types of HPV.
- If these types of HPV are not found, you do not need any further tests.
- If these types of HPV are found, the sample is then checked for any changes in the cells of your cervix. These can then be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
- You'll get your results by letter, usually in about 2 weeks. It will explain what happens next.
Important: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update
Contact your GP surgery online or by phone if you think you are due to have cervical screening but have not been sent an invitation.
It's important to go to your appointment unless you have symptoms of COVID-19. All NHS services are making sure it's safe for you to attend.
Video: how cervical screening is done
This video shows someone having cervical screening. It shows an illustrated view of the inside of the body and explains what happens during the test.
Media review due: 4 February 2025
Try not to put off cervical screening. It's one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.
Help us improve our services
Can you answer some questions about your experiences with cervical screening to help us improve our services?
Page last reviewed: 31 March 2020
Next review due: 31 March 2023