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Having a cervical screening test - FAQs

I'm worried that having the test will hurt

Most people do not find that having the test is painful, but you might feel a bit uncomfortable - try to relax by taking slow, deep breaths.  If it is painful, tell the person taking your test straight away, as they may be able to help.

I feel really embarrassed about going for a screening test.

We know that people can feel embarrassed about going for screening. All our sample takers (the people who take the screening tests) are used to people being embarrassed, but they have a lot of experience and see a lot of very different bodies. They will put you at your ease, give you privacy to get ready for your screening test and they will not judge or make comments. The person taking your test will just be glad that you have come for screening.

I have been invited for screening but I am pregnant – should I still go for my test?

If you are due for a screening test then you should wait until 12 weeks after your baby is born to have your test. If you contact Cervical Screening Wales and let them know that you are pregnant and when your baby is due, they will send you another invitation after you have had your baby. It is really important that you remember to go for a screening test after your baby is born.

If you are being seen in a colposcopy clinic, it is very important to keep your appointments. Colposcopy examination can be done safely during pregnancy, but biopsies and treatments are usually delayed until afterward. If you have any worries, please contact the colposcopy clinic.

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

You cannot be tested during your period, so make sure you make an appointment before or after your period is due. If you have bleeding when it should not be happening such as bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause, you should see your doctor, even if you have had a recent test.

Should I avoid sex before having a cervical screening test?

This depends on what type of contraception you are using, if any. Some methods of contraception can affect a cervical screening test result. These are-


·         Spermicides

·         Barrier methods (e.g. condoms or a diaphragm)

·         Lubricant jelly

If you use any of these methods, you should not have sex for at least 24 hours before having a cervical screening test. Otherwise, having sex should not affect your cervical screening result.

I have never had sex - do I need screening?

The evidence shows that if a person has not had sex, their risk of developing cervical cancer is very low, although the risk is ‘low risk’ not ‘no risk’.  Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which causes at least 99.7% of cervical cancers, can be passed on by any sort of sexual contact. This includes:

·         Penetrative sex

·         Oral sex

·         Genital touching

·         Shared use of sex toys

You may wish to discuss having a test with your GP or practice nurse, to help you decide.

We know that some people may be worried that having a screening test before they have had sex may mean that they are no longer a virgin. However, it is only having had sex that means someone is no longer a virgin.

I have only ever been in same-sex relationships - do I need to be screened?

Yes. The virus that causes cervical cancer (HPV or human papillomavirus) can be passed between same-sex partners. HPV is passed on through skin-to-skin contact and some body fluids. So 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 not had sexual contact for many years – do I need a screening test?

We advise that anyone who has ever had sexual contact should have screening until the age of 65, even if they only ever had one partner. This is because HPV (human papillomavirus), the virus that causes at least 99.7% of cervical cancers, can remain in the cervix for many years.

. Will I have to undress to have the test?

You will need to take off your underwear to have the test done. If you are wearing a skirt or dress, you would usually be able to keep that on.

I am breastfeeding – can I still go for my test?

As long as your cervical screening test is due and it is at least 12 weeks since your baby was born, you can go for your screening test. Breastfeeding does not affect your screening test. You may find having the test is a little uncomfortable. This is because breastfeeding can affect your hormone levels.