When it's offered - Cervical screening

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 protect against all types of HPV linked to cervical cancer so it 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 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.

If you are a trans man aged 25 to 64 who is still registered with a GP as female, you will be routinely invited for cervical screening, unless you have had a full hysterectomy. But if you are registered with a GP as a man, you will not be automatically invited for cervical screening – so let a GP or Practice Nurse know and they will be able to organise a test for you and inform the Cervical Screening Programme that you need to receive invitations. Read more Information for trans people on NHS screening Programmes.

You can go for cervical screening if you are over 65 and have never been screened before, but you won't get a letter automatically. Talk to a GP or Practice Nurse and they will be able to organise the test for you.

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. This is not available everywhere.

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.

The reasons for this include:

  • cervical cancer is very rare in women under 25
  • while HPV infection is very common in women under 25, their immune systems will often clear the infection and the abnormal cells will go back to normal without treatment
  • the number of younger women diagnosed with cervical cancer is likely to go down because of the NHS HPV vaccination programme

If you're under the age of 25 and you have symptoms of cervical cancer, are worried about your risk of developing cervical cancer, or are concerned about other aspects of your sexual health, visit a GP or 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 of cervical cancer, 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: 06/08/2018
Next review due: 06/08/2021