Where do I have my cervical screening?

Most screening tests are done at your doctor’s surgery, often by the practice nurse.

What happens to my test once it has been looked at?

If your screening test showed that there was no high risk Human papillomavirus (hrHPV) in the sample, then your sample will not be kept.

If your screening test shows that high risk HPV was found, then the laboratory will make a slide of the cells in the sample. The slide will be kept for at least 10 years.

The laboratory can compare your latest test result with the ones that you have had before. This is to make sure that you get any treatment you may need. We may review all screening records, including your sample, as part of our aim to offer a quality service and to help increase the expertise of our specialist staff.

If a review were to show that you should be cared for differently, we would contact you. We would offer you information about the review of your case if you wanted to know it. We may also use your sample for teaching or for research purposes. This would not use your name. If you are unhappy about this, please let your smear taker know.

Will I have to undress to have the test ?

You will be asked to undress from the waist down, if you wear a skirt or dress you may not need to remove it. You will be given a large paper towel or sheet to cover yourself.

I've had a hysterectomy – why am I still being invited for screening?

Sometimes we do not know that you have had a hysterectomy, so we continue to invite you for smears. Your GP can tell us and we can stop sending the invitations.

A hysterectomy removes the uterus (womb) and this usually includes the cervix (neck of the womb); this is called a ‘total hysterectomy’. In some circumstances the cervix may be left in place – this is called a subtotal hysterectomy. If you have had a sub-total hysterectomy you should continue having cervical screening tests. Your doctor will be able to tell you what type of hysterectomy you have had.

After a total hysterectomy you would not normally need any further smears. Some women may need a single follow-up test – if you need this your gynaecologist will let you know.

I've changed my gender – do I need screening?

If you were born female and have changed your sex but still have your cervix, you should still have screening. However, we cannot invite you for screening if you are registered as male. You will need to discuss your screening needs with your GP.

If you were born female, have changed your sex and have had your cervix removed, you do not require any further screening.

If you were born male and have changed your sex you may be sent an invitation for screening. This is because we are not aware that you were born male. You do not require any screening. Ideally, your GP should inform us of this so that you are not sent any invitations.

I'm over 65 - why can't I have screening?

In Wales, women are invited for cervical smears up to the age of 64. The screening programme stops then because women who have had normal screening results up to this time are very unlikely to go on to develop cervical cancer in later years. 

Although cervical cancer does occur in older women, it is often in women who have had no smears, or who have not had enough smears in the past. Even if all your past smears were normal, it is very important that you report any unusual bleeding or discharge to your GP.

Women over the age of 65, who have never attended cervical screening, can request a test.

I've only had sex with women - do I need to be screened?

The virus which causes cervical cancer (HPV or human papillomavirus) can be passed between women. As with other sexually transmitted infections, HPV is passed on through skin-to -skin contact and some body fluids. Oral sex, transferring vaginal fluids on hands and fingers, or sharing sex toys, can all be ways of being exposed to HPV.  For this reason, it is still advisable to be screened.

I have a family history of cancer - should I be screened more often or earlier?

No, there is no known family link in cervical cancer unlike some other cancers, so there is no need to have tests more often. 

Do I need screening as I've had the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination?

Yes, the HPV vaccine only protects against the two types of high risk HPV (16 and 18) that cause 70% of cervical cancer in women. The HPV vaccine does not protect against all high risk HPV types, so it is really important for all women to have cervical screening when they are invited.

I haven't had sexual contact for many years – do I need a smear test?

HPV (human papillomavirus) can remain in the cervix for many years. For this reason we advise that anyone who has ever had sex or any sort of sexual contact should have screening until the age of 65.

I've never had sex - do I need screening?

If a woman has not had any sort of sex her risk of developing cervical cancer is very low indeed. However, the risk is ‘low risk’ not ‘no risk’ as hrHPV can be passed on through close genital contact.  You may wish to discuss having a smear with your smear taker. 

Can I have sex before the test?

If you use a spermicide, a barrier method of contraception or a lubricant jelly, you should not use these for 24 hours before the test as they contain certain chemicals that might affect the test. 

Does the test hurt?

Some women find it a bit uncomfortable - try to relax by taking slow, deep breaths as it may hurt more if you are tense. If it is painful, tell the doctor or nurse straight away, as they can stop at any time and they may be able to help. 

I am on a period - can I still have my smear test taken?

You shouldn’t be tested during your period, so try to make an appointment before or after your period is due. If you have unusual bleeding such as bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause, you should see your doctor, even if you have had a recent smear test.

I'm pregnant - should I still go for my test?

If you are due for a smear test then you should wait until 12 weeks after the delivery before you go for cervical screening. If you contact Cervical Screening Wales and let them know your expected date of delivery they will add this information to your records and send you an invitation when you are due. If you are being seen in Colposcopy it is important to keep your appointments.

How often am I screened?

Women who have no high risk Human Papillomavirus (hrHPV) found on their smear test will be invited for their next test in three or five years, depending on age. It normally takes many years for cervical cancer to develop. Screening three or five-yearly can find cell changes before they become a cancer.