What is the cervical screening test?

The cervical screening test was previously called the smear test.

A sample of cells is taken from the cervix (the neck of the womb, at the top of the vagina) using a soft brush. The sample is first tested for high-risk types of human papillomavirus. This is because the cell changes that lead to nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by high-risk HPV.

If high-risk HPV is not found in the sample, then the cells do not need to be looked at. This happens in nearly 9 out of every 10 samples.

If high-risk HPV is found in the sample, the cells in the sample are are  looked at under a microscope by a screener to check for any changes.

If the cells are normal, a repeat cervical screening test will be done after 12 months to see whether the high-risk HPV is still present. If it is still there, the cells will be checked again.

If the cells show any changes, then some further investigations will be needed. (See Results)