What is cervical screening

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. Almost all cases are caused by a virus called human papilomavirus (HPV). This is a very common virus that most people will have at some time during their life.

Only certain types of HPV cause cervical cancer. Your screening test will look for high-risk types of HPV. By finding cell changes early, screening can prevent cervical cancer from developing. 



About Screening

Cervical Screening Wales is responsible for the NHS cervical screening programme in Wales, inclujding sending invitations.  We get your details from your doctor's list, so it is important that your doctor always has your correct name and address.

Aim of the Cervical Screening Programme

Cervical Cancer can be prevented by regular cervical screening. The cervical screening programme has three main aims: -

  1. To reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer (incidence) by picking up cell changes before they become a cancer
  2. To reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer (mortality) by stopping cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage
  3. To reduce the effects of cancer or cancer treatments on health (morbidity) by stopping cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage when it is much easier to treat

Who should have Cervical screening?

We will invite you for cervical screening if you are aged 25-64 and you are registered as female with a GP surgery.

If we are told that you should not have screening, because you do not have a cervix, we will not invite you. This might be because you have had a hysterectomy, or because you are transgender.

If you think that you should be invited for screening and have not, please speak to your doctor or practice nurse.

How often do we invite?

  • Women aged 25-49 are invited every three years 
  • Women aged 50-64 are invited every five years 

Are there any exceptions?

  • Women who need follow-up after cell changes will be invited even if under the age of 25 or over the age of 65 
  • Women with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are advised to be screened every year until the age of 65
  • If you are 65 or over and have never had a smear test, then you are entitled to have one

For further information about cervical screening please go to Frequently Asked Questions below.

What about women who don't want to be screened?

Women who don't attend for screening will be sent a reminder letter six months after their invitation. If they still do not attend, they will be sent another invitation after three or five years, depending on their age.

If a woman does not want to be sent any invitations, she can contact Cervical Screening Wales and we will send her an ‘opt out’ form. If a woman does opt out of screening, she can choose to ‘opt in’ again at any time.

Having a Cervical Screening test

You will usually have a chat with the doctor or nurse first and you can ask if you wish to have someone with you.They will check your details, advise you what the test involves and ask about any problems you may have or medicines that you are taking. It is useful to know the date of your last period (if you are still having them). You can't be tested during your period so make sure you make an appointment before or after your period is due.
You will then need to undress from the waist down. You may want to wear a skirt or dress so that you can pull it up. You will need to climb onto a couch and lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet on the couch. Some clinics have special couches which support your legs. CSW Diagram
The doctor or nurse will then gently put a speculum into your vagina. Once inside, the speculum can be opened gently to allow your cervix to be seen.
Your cervix is the lower part of your womb (also called a 'uterus').  It is sometimes called the 'neck of the womb'.  Your cervix connects with the top end of your vagina.
Speculum brush The doctor or nurse needs to see your cervix before they can take the sample. Once they have seen your cervix, they then sweep a soft nylon brush over it to take a sample of cells. All smear takers take this sample in the same way.
Some women do not feel the smear being taken, but others can find it uncomfortable. It is not unusual to have a small amount of bleeding afterwards. brush in vial

After the sample has been put into a pot of fluid, the speculum is gently removed. The sample is then sent to the laboratory.

For further information please go to Frequently Asked Questions below.


Remember: You can take somebody with your for support if you wish. Talk to your practice nurse if you have any concerns.