Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer screening involves a smear test, carried out by a doctor or nurse. The smear test looks for early changes in the cells of the cervix, which could lead to cancer if not found early. It takes less than five minutes, and it may be uncomfortable but it's not painful.

Smear tests are important because you don't usually have symptoms when you have abnormal changes in the cells of your cervix. A smear test is the only way to detect these changes, and this could save your life.

Every woman between 25 and 60 should have a regular smear test, whether they're single or married, have sex with men or women, have had the HPV vaccine, have stopped having babies or are post-menopausal.

  • If you're between 25 and 44 years of age, you should have a smear test every three years.
  • If you're between 45 and 60 years of age, you should have a smear test every five years.

The best time to have you smear test is halfway through your cycle: that's 10-14 days after the first day of your period (if you're having your periods).

If you get results that show abnormal cells, it doesn't mean you have cancer. It could be due to other problems, like an infection in your cervix. It does mean you'll need to have another smear test and a detailed examination of your cervix, called a colposcopy, which is done much in the same way as a smear test. A colposcopy looks at the cells in your cervix using a microscope. If they find changes to the cell, they can be treated easily, which prevents them from becoming cancer cells.

For more information on the cervical smear test and what the results mean, please see our booklet Understanding Cervical Smear Test Results.

To get your smear test, you can make an appointment with the thousands of GPs, nurses, and clinics all registered as smeartakers. You can find a full list on at CervicalCheck. To get registered, to check if you're on the register, or if you have any questions, call them on 1800 45 45 55.

If you're already registered with CervicalCheck, they'll call you when your next smear test is due.