Screening can help prevent cervical cancer
The screening programme is offered to women and people with a cervix 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 nurse.
When you go to your appointment, your nurse or doctor should be able to advise when you can expect your result.
If you're concerned that you may have missed an invitation, or if you have any symptoms, you should talk to your GP.
Test process video
Many 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 off attending at all.
The video at the following link explains what happens when you go for a test:
The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious.
No matter what age you are, if you are concerned about symptoms such as abnormal bleeding, or pain or discomfort in the lower pelvis, you should seek advice from your GP, even if you go regularly for screening.
You can find out more about cervical cancer and its symptoms 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.
You can find out more on the HPV vaccine for adolescents page.
It is recommended all girls and boys receive the vaccine when it is offered to them.
Anyone who has had the vaccine is still advised to go for cervical screening when they are invited to do so.