The NHS runs a national screening programme for women aged 25–64 to check the health of the lower part of the womb. It is not a test to diagnose cervical cancer, but a test to show changes in cells which can be caused by many things, most of which will not lead to cervical cancer.Early detection and treatment can prevent around 75% of cancers developing but, like other screening tests, cervical screening is not perfect and may not always detect early cell changes that could lead to cancer.

How Often Should I Have a Smear Test?

After your first cervical screening test at 25, you will be automatically invited every three years until you are 49, when you will then be invited every five years between the ages of 50 and 64.

Where Do I Have the Test?

You can either have the test here at the surgery with a practice nurse, or you can go to a community clinic, such as a family planning clinic. NHS Direct can give you details of local clinics.

How is the Test Carried Out?

We use a method called liquid based cytology, where a practice nurse will take a sample of cells using a spatula which brushes cells from your cervix. The test cannot be carried out during menstruation, so you should ideally book your appointment for when you are mid-cycle.


  • Your results will be posted to your home address. You should receive them within eight weeks of having the test.
  • If your results are negative, you will be invited again in three or five years’ time.
  • If the results are abnormal, you will be invited to have the test repeated and, if they remain abnormal, you may be referred for colposcopy.

Further Information