What is cervical screening?
Cervical screening is a free health test available on the NHS as part of the national cervical screening programme. It helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for a virus called high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes. It is not a test for cancer.
Who is invited for cervical screening?
You should be invited for cervical screening if you have a cervix. Women are usually born with a cervix. Trans men, non-binary and intersex people may also have one.
In the UK, you are automatically invited for cervical screening if you are:
between the ages of 25 to 64
registered as female with a GP surgery.
You may get your first invite up to 6 months before you turn 25. You can book an appointment as soon as you get the invite.
What are the benefits and risks of cervical screening?
You are invited for cervical screening because evidence shows that the benefits of the test outweigh any risks. Along with the HPV vaccine, cervical screening is the best way to protect against cervical cancer and prevents over 7 in 10 diagnoses. However, like any screening test, cervical screening is not perfect and there are some risks.
Benefits of cervical screening
Cervical screening aims to identify whether you are at higher risk of developing cervical cell changes or cervical cancer. This means you can get any care or treatment you need early.
England, Scotland and Wales now use HPV primary screening, which is even better as it is based on your individual risk. This means how frequently you are invited for cervical screening is based on your last result and within a timeframe that is safe for you.
What is the difference between a smear test and cervical screening
A smear test is the older name for the test. It was called that because of the way the test used to be done – cells were smeared on a glass slide, which was sent to the laboratory for testing.
The test is different now and most healthcare professionals call it cervical screening. Your letter will invite you to attend cervical screening.