Cervical cancer screening

Testing to detect early signs of cervical cancer

Detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells can prevent cervical cancer

Cervical cancer screening is an effective method for detecting abnormal cells in the cervix.

The results of the test (sometimes known as a pap smear test) are used to help to provide healthcare practitioners with an accurate measure of the health of your cervix – the entrance to your womb (uterus). Regular check-ups are recommended for all women aged 25 years and older and are offered at all our centres.

Regular cervical screening tests are recommended for all women 25 years and older.

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Why is cervical cancer screening important?

The test looks for changes in the cells of your cervix.

This isn’t a test for cancer, but can detect abnormal cells that could lead to serious problems like cervical cancer. Symptoms may not be experienced beforehand, until the condition is at an advanced stage.

Abnormal cells are not usually cancerous, especially if you have regular screenings. However, if abnormal cells are noticed at a screening they can be closely observed and/or treated to prevent cancer from developing. Regular screening has been proved to reduce the risk of advanced cancer by 90% on average for women aged 35-64.

What to expect at your appointment

The procedure is generally very quick and painless, and may just be momentarily uncomfortable.

The practitioner will ask you to lie on a couch. They will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina in order to view your cervix. A small brush is used to take a sample. This picks up cells from inside the opening of the cervix. The test only takes a couple of minutes.

If you have any health concerns, further to your cervical screening, which you would like to talk about, you may also want to use your appointment to ask these questions.

Have more questions about the cervical screening procedure?

Take a look at our frequently asked questions, where we share answers for some of the most common screening procedure questions.

Receiving your results

We will contact you (by your preferred method), usually within 2 weeks of the procedure. The results you receive will be described as either:

  • Normal / negative
  • Unclear / insufficient / inadequate – meaning that the cells could not be viewed and we will need to take another sample in 3 months’ time
  • Abnormal / irregular – meaning that changes have been observed, either mild, moderate or severe


If your results are irregular or abnormal

Please don’t be frightened. Any change in the cells of the cervix usually happens very slowly, and may be cleared by the body’s immune system. Slight abnormalities are very common in women under 25. Abnormal cells are not cancerous, but could be an early warning sign which we need to keep an eye on.

We’ll send a full explanation of what the test results show and advise you on what to do next.

If your results show cell changes we may recommend that you have another smear test after a period of time, or suggest that you make an appointment for further investigation. Further investigation, such as a colposcopy, depends on the type of abnormality seen.

We understand that receiving test results can be worrying or confusing. Please do contact us at any time if you have questions or concerns.

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