The screening programme is offered to women aged 25 to 49 every three years, and 50 to 64 year olds every five years.
A screening test is not a test for diagnosing cervical cancer. It is a test to check the health of the cervix.
Regular screening tests are the best way of detecting early changes in the cells of the cervix that don’t cause any symptoms and could go on to develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.
The test only takes a few minutes and is usually carried out by a female nurse.
Women of any age who are concerned about symptoms such as abnormal bleeding, or pain or discomfort in the lower pelvis, should seek advice from their GP, even if they attend regularly for screening.
Smear test video
Many women will feel nervous about going for their smear test, especially if it is their first time. They may be worried about the actual process of having the test, as well as the results. These worries can put some women off attending at all.
The video at the following link shows how simple the process is, and will hopefully reassure that it's not something to be too anxious about:
The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious, so it’s very important to attend for a cervical smear test when you're invited.
But symptoms to be concerned about are:
- abnormal vaginal bleeding, for example between periods or after sex
- continuous vaginal discharge, which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling
- discomfort during sex
- vaginal bleeding after the menopause
You can find out more about cervical cancer at this link:
As well as cervical screening, there is also a vaccine available that helps protect against cervical cancer.
All girls and boys in year nine are offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in school. This vaccine protects against two types of the virus which are known to cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers.
You can find out more on the HPV vaccine page.
It is recommended all girls and boys receive the vaccine when it is offered to them.
Girls who have had the vaccine are still advised to attend for cervical screening when they are invited to do so.