Cervical screening

Everything you need to know about getting a cervical screening (also known as a smear test)

Cervical screening: an overview

Cervical screening (a smear test) is a test to check the health of the cervix.

It is not a test for cancer but it is a test to help prevent cancer. It is offered to anyone with a cervix (the opening to your womb from your vagina), who is aged 25 to 64.

The screening programme recommends smears every three years, up to age 50, and every five years after you turn 50.

Your invite to have a smear test is usually by letter, so it is important that your GP has your up-to-date address, or you may not receive your invite.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get a smear test?

You'll be sent an invitation letter in the post when it's time to book your smear appointment. It is important to attend your smears when you receive your invitation or are recalled, however, if you missed your last cervical screening, you do not need to wait for a letter.

Most cervical screening is performed in a GP surgery by a nurse or doctor. Please call your GP surgery to book an appointment with them. In some cases, you might be able to book the appointment online.

axess Sexual Health offers cervical screening appointments through our online booking service. You can also contact the triage line on 0300 323 1300 and select your chosen location, where they may be able to book you an appointment if available or appropriate.

What happens during a cervical screening?

During the screening appointment, a small tube will be gently inserted into your vagina, so that your cervix can be seen.

A sample of cells will be taken from your cervix using a soft brush.

Please remember, our staff are here to support you, and are very experienced in this field, so there is no need to feel embarrassed.

The cervical screening test itself should take less than five minutes.

Click here to watch an NHS video which will explain this further.

What is cervical screening for?

The sample taken during your screening will be checked for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix.

These are called "high risk" types of HPV. If these types of HPV are not found, you do not need any further test until your next cervical screen.

If high risk types of HPV are found, the sample will be checked for any changes in the cells of your cervix. These can be treated before they get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.

Regular cervical smears prevent 70% of cervical cancer deaths.

Click here for further information.

Do some people not require a smear test?

If you have a cervix, but have never had any sexual activity with men or women, you may be advised that the risk of developing cancer of the cervix is very low. However, we can never rule out risk.

How can trans or non-binary folk access cervical screening?

Anyone with a cervix, between the ages of 25 and 64, will require a cervical screening.

If you are registered with a GP as gender female, you will automatically receive your invitation to the screening programme. However, if you are registered with a GP as male, an invitation letter will not be sent, and it is therefore important for you to seek out cervical screening.

At axess, we have a Butterfly clinic for trans and non-binary folk to access a safe, comfortable space for all required screenings. When we see you at Butterfly, we will always discuss cervical screening with those who may require it, and look to facilitate this.

If you would like to access our Butterfly clinic, you can contact us directly at Butterfly@liverpoolft.nhs.uk.