Cervical Screening Awareness Week | About Smear Tests

Cervical Screening Awareness Week – About Smear Tests

Cervical screening helps prevent cervical cancer, through a free health check testing for the prescence of the high-risk human papillomavirus and cervical cell changes, available on the NHS as part of the national cervical screening programme.

This programme has been developed to check anyone between the ages of 25 to 64 who has a cervix. Although women are usually born with a cervix, trans men, non-binary and intersex people may also have one. You may get an invite up to 6 months prior to turning 25 and can book an appointment as soon as you have the invite. It is very rare to develop cervical cancer under the age of 25. It is also rare to develop cervical cancer over the age of 64, if you have had regular cervical screening. 

After your first screening, your next invite will depend on the result and may be anywhere between annually and every 5 years. The current push for testing through the national programme is due to evidence showing that benefits of the test outweigh any risks, as along with the HPV vaccine, cervical screening offers the most effective way to protect against cervical cancer, preventing over 7 in 10 diagnoses.

Cervical screening does come with risks of false positives and false negatives.

  • False positives means a result may show someone does have HPV or cell changes when they do not.
  • False negatives means a result may not show someone has HPV or cell changes when they do.
  • These false results can be picked up on a second screening which is why going to screenings when invited is useful even if the previous screening came back negative.