Cervical Screening (Smear Testing)

Cervical screening (sometimes called the ‘smear test’) is a test to check for cervical cancer caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is very common and easily spread by sexual activity.

What is a cervical screening test?

This is a test that involves checking cells from your cervix (the neck of the womb) and an HPV test, where appropriate. The test is designed to pick up any changes so they can be easily and effectively monitored or treated. Without treatment, in some cases, the changes could eventually become cancerous.

In Scotland, all women between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-five are offered a cervical screening test every five years, or less if being monitored more closely.

Some, but not all, changes found by cervical screening tests may give an early warning sign of the possibility of developing cervical cancer. By dealing with this at an early stage, many cervical cancers can be stopped.

The Cervical smear test is an excellent test – the only test which can almost always prevent getting a particular kind of cancer – cervical cancer.

This is because the cervical smear test detects cells changes long before they get a chance to become cancer. This means that as long as you always come for your smear when you are called, any abnormal cells would almost always be picked up in time to prevent them becoming cervical cancer, and by dealing with this at an early stage, most cervical cancers can be stopped.

There is no need to be embarrassed, the Practice Sister does the majority of the smears for the practice and does them every day, so she’s a real expert at taking them. Also there are plenty of female GPs if you would rather see a GP.

The Health Board sends out the results of the smear test, usually about  10 weeks after your test. The letter will tell you your result and when you will be due recalled again the next time, depending on the result.

Worse-case scenario is that abnormal cells will be detected and you are sent to the hospital for “Colposcopy” examination, where they look closely at the cells and if necessary, have treatment to have the bad cells removed. This is an uncomfortable procedure but most women find it quite painless.

So don’t put off having your smear test, it could save your life.

Also, for your information, if you have problematic bleeding which means that every time you make an appointment for your smear you have your period, then please make an appointment to discuss and we can give you tablets to stop the bleeding long enough for you to have your very important smear test.

When women are post -menopausal they can suffer from vaginal dryness which may make having a smear test much more uncomfortable or sore. We can give you vaginal cream or pessaries for a month before the test which will make the procedure much more comfortable so please don’t hesitate to ask for this. Watch this short film about Cervical screening and the menopause.


and for lot of other videos to explain about cervical screening, colposcopy and cervical cancer please see these short films:


From 30th March 2020 HPV testing was introduced to the Scottish cervical screening programme. Cervical cytology (looking at cells under a microscope) will be replaced by human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as the primary (first) screening test. All samples taken on or after 16th March will be tested for HPV.

If HPV is not found in the sample, the next screening test will be in five years time, instead of three, regardless of age. This is because evidence tells us that the risk of developing cervical cancer is very low.

Why is this change happening?

HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV testing is a more effective and sensitive test for identifying women at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Facts about HPV

HPV is very common. Four our of five people in Scotland will have it at some point in their lives.

It usually clears by the body itself in time.

Over 99% of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

HPV is passed on through any kind of sexual contact, skin to skin, not just penetrative sex.

How will this change affect eligible women?

The HPV test will be carried out using the same samples of cells taken during a cervical screening (smear) test, so the cervical screening experience will not change.

Check out this website for help and advice: