Cervical Screening Test: What Is It and Why Have It Done?

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What Is Cervical Screening?

Cervical screening (or a cervical/pap smear) is a method of finding abnormal cells on the cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina).

At your screening appointment, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a bed. A speculum will be gently inserted into your vagina and holds the walls of the vagina open. A soft brush will then be inserted to collect some cells from the surface of your cervix.

Who Is Cervical Screening For?

Women of all ages can develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged 30-45.

Why Have A Cervical Screening Test Done?

Finding and removing abnormal cells from your cervix can prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages, which is why it’s so important to have cervical screening done to ensure the cervix is healthy.

Symptoms of cervical cancer vary, but can include:

  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • menstrual bleedingthat is longer and heavier than usual.
  • bleedingafter intercourse
  • increased vaginal discharge.
  • painduring sexual intercourse.
  • bleedingafter menopause.
  • unexplained, persistent pelvicand/or back pain.

It’s important to note that, whilst cervical screening is not a test for cervical cancer, it can detect abnormalities in the cells of the cervix that can lead to cancer.

When Is Cervical Screening Done?

Unlike on the NHS, which only offers cervical screening every 3-5 years once you reach the age of 25, Dr Penman recommends that if you are sexually active and over 20 years, that you come for a cervical smear every 3 years.

Under 20 years, generally the virus that is thought to cause cervical changes, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is transient and the body is capable of clearing it. It is the persistence of this virus that leads to the changes in the cervix that can lead onto cervical cancer.

When Will I Know My Test Result?

If you have your cervical smear conducted on the NHS, you’ll hear the result within 2-6 weeks. Regardless of your age, if your test results are abnormal the NHS will re-check the results and may retest, but then only invite you back for testing after 1-5 years.

However, if you choose to have the smear done privately with Dr Penman, you’ll hear the results within 10 days.

If there are any details that require discussion regarding your cervical smear test result, Dr Penman will ring you and discuss the findings with you and invite you back for a follow-up consultation where he can discuss them further and recommend any further treatment if this is necessary.

Abnormal Results

Approximately 1 in 20 cervical screening tests show cervical changes. The majority will not lead to cancer as the cells will return to normal over time. However, in some cases, the cells will remain abnormal and require treatment to ensure that they do not become cancerous. Should your test show abnormal results, Dr Penman will advise you and arrange further treatment if required.

How Do I Book A Private Cervical Screening Test With Dr Penman?

You can book your cervical screening test by clicking on the blue gynaecology appointment button below. Alternatively, please visit the Contact Us page and ring the hospital of your choice.



  • Please make sure that you are not menstruating when you come for your smear test as this makes the collection of cells from the cervix impossible.
  • When you book your appointment, please tell the booking clerk that you would like a cervical smear test performed as this affects the length of the appointment required.

For more information, please visit the Cervical Screening Test page.


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