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What happens at your cervical screening appointment

During cervical screening a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix for testing.

It's usually done by a female nurse or doctor.

Before starting, they should explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you have.

See what the cervix is
Diagram of the body highlighting the cervix as the opening between the vagina and the womb.
Your cervix is the opening of your womb from your vagina.
See what a speculum and brush may look like
Gloved hands holding a clear plastic speculum. The speculum is a narrow tube about 15cm long. It's in 2 parts and has a hinge and handle at one end so that it can be opened slightly at the other end. Inside the speculum a plastic brush is shown with soft bristles, which can be used to collect a sample of cells when the speculum is opened.
A speculum (plastic or metal) and soft brush are used to take a sample of cells from your cervix.

How cervical screening is done

  1. You'll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You'll be given a sheet to put over you.
  2. The nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. Sometimes you may need to change position during the test.
  3. They'll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may be used.
  4. The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
  5. Using a soft brush, they'll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
  6. The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.

The cervical screening test itself should take less than 5 minutes. The whole appointment should take about 10 minutes.

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 last reviewed: 4 February 2022
Media review due: 4 February 2025


You're in control of the cervical screening test and can ask the nurse to stop at any time.

Things you can try to make the cervical screening test easier

If you're worried about cervical screening, there are things you can try that might make the test easier for you.


  • wear something you can leave on during the test, like a skirt or long jumper

  • bring someone with you for support

  • try breathing exercises to help you relax – ask the nurse about these

  • ask the nurse to use a smaller speculum

  • ask the nurse about lying in a different position – such as on your side with your knees pulled up to your chest

  • bring something to listen to or read during the test


  • do not feel pressured to keep going – you can ask to stop the test at any time

  • try not to be afraid or embarrassed to talk to the nurse – telling them how you feel will help them understand what kind of support you might need

Things to look out for after cervical screening

You may have some spotting or light bleeding after your cervical screening test.

This is very common and should go away after a few hours.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you have:

  • bleeding after cervical screening which is heavy or does not stop after a few hours

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Page last reviewed: 14 June 2023
Next review due: 14 June 2026