Cervical screening

  1. Overview
  2. Why it's offered
  3. When it's offered
  4. Results

When it's offered

Women aged 25 to 64 who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for cervical screening.

This includes women who have had the HPV vaccination, as the vaccine doesn't guarantee complete protection against cervical cancer.

Invitation letters

Women registered with a GP will receive a letter inviting them to make an appointment, along with further information about cervical screening.

The letters should be sent out to women:

  • aged 25 to 49 – every 3 years
  • aged 50 to 64 – every 5 years
  • over 65 – only women who haven't been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests 

Women under 25 could be invited up to 6 months before their 25th birthday. You can book your screening appointment as soon as you get the invitation.

If you haven't had a cervical screening test within the appropriate time, you may be offered one when you next visit your GP or family planning clinic.

You can also contact your GP practice to book a screening appointment if you're overdue one.

Make sure your GP has your correct name and address, and let them know of any changes so you can be contacted when you're due to have a screening test.

If you're not sure when your next screening test should be or if you have any questions about the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, ask your GP or practice nurse.

Alternative screening locations

If you're not registered with a GP practice or don't want to be screened at your GP practice, screening may also be available at a well woman clinic or sexual health clinic.

Find your nearest sexual health services

Why aren't women under 25 routinely screened?

Women under the age of 25 aren't routinely invited for screening as part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

This is because normal developmental cell changes in the cervix can look very similar to abnormal cell changes, leading to unnecessary treatment and worry.

Cervical cancer is also very rare in this age group.

If you're under the age of 25 and worried about your risk of developing cervical cancer, or you're concerned about other aspects of your sexual health, visit your GP or your local GUM clinic for advice.

Getting symptoms checked

If you've recently had a cervical screening test and the results were normal, but you develop symptoms such as unusual vaginal bleeding, visit your GP or GUM clinic for a check-up.

There could be several different reasons for your symptoms, so further investigation is needed.

Page last reviewed: 07/09/2015
Next review due: 01/09/2018