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What is cervical screening?

  • All women aged 25 to 64 are invited by letter to cervical screening to check the health of their cervix. Cervical screening used to be called a smear test.
  • Everyone with a cervix should go for cervical screening.
  • 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.
  • 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 checked for any changes in the cells of your cervix. These can be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
  • The nurse or doctor will tell you when you can expect your results letter.

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


Try not to put off cervical screening. It's one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

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