You will usually have your cervical screening test at a GP surgery or at a clinic. During cervical screening a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix for testing.
The test takes about 5 minutes. The whole appointment should take about 15 minutes. It is like a smear test if you had one before.
You will be asked to wear a mask during your appointment.
Before your cervical screening test
It's best to book an appointment for when you do not have your period.
Avoid using any vaginal medications, lubricants or creams in the 2 days before you have your test. They can affect the results.
Bring your PPS number with you. We need this to identify your correct records and update them.
In many GP practices and clinics, you can:
- ask for a female GP or nurse to take your screening test
- have a friend or family member in the room with you
If you have vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy, or find cervical screening tests painful, tell the GP or nurse beforehand. They may be able to reduce your discomfort.
Before starting, the GP or nurse should give you information about cervical screening. They will ask you to sign a form to say you understand the information and to consent to taking part in CervicalCheck. This is called giving your informed consent.
How cervical screening is done
The GP or nurse will ask you to undress from the waist down and lie down on a bed. You can usually remain dressed if you're wearing a loose skirt. But you will still have to remove your underwear.
They will ask you to lie on your back with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. But you can lie on your side if it’s more comfortable for you.
When you are ready for the test:
- They gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina - this holds the walls of the vagina open. They may use a small amount of lubricant.
- They open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
- Using a soft brush, they take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
- They remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.
You can ask the GP or nurse to stop at any time.
Some women find the screening test slightly uncomfortable or embarrassing, but for most it's not painful.
The GP or nurse will put the sample in a pot to send to a lab. The lab will check the sample for HPV first. If HPV is found, the sample will also be checked for abnormal cells.
Things that can make the test easier
Things you can try that might make the test better for you include:
- wearing something you can leave on during the test, like a skirt or long jumper
- bringing someone with you for support - check when booking that it's ok to bring someone
- taking slow, deep breaths to help you relax
- asking the GP or nurse to use a smaller speculum
- asking the GP or nurse about lying in a different position to have the test
- letting the GP or nurse know during the test if it is painful
Trans men and the cervical screening test
Your screening test may be uncomfortable if you are taking long-term testosterone. There may be physical changes to your body, particularly to your genital area.
Talk to your GP or nurse. They can help make the test more comfortable for you.
Things to look out for after cervical screening
You may have some spotting or light bleeding after your test. This is very common and should go away in a few hours.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you have:
- heavy bleeding after cervical screening
- any bleeding after cervical screening that does not stop after a few hours
Giving your informed consent
Each time you have a screening test you’ll be asked to:
- confirm you understand the information you have been given about cervical screening
- give your consent to take part in CervicalCheck
You do this by signing a form called a cervical screening form. You'll be given information and the form at your appointment.
If you would like to see the form, you can download the cervical screening form (PDF, 3 pages, 500KB).
Take the time before your screening test to read it. Check that your name, address and other details are correct.
Sign the consent form when you feel you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.
You should understand:
- the benefits and limitations of screening
- the possibility that your sample may also be tested for abnormal cells
- the likelihood and meaning of a normal result
- what it means if you are called back for further tests
- when and how you will get your result
- how your personal information will be used
- that we receive, hold and exchange your personal information with those who deliver the programme
Most of this information will be given to you with the consent form. The information is also online. Ask your GP or nurse any questions you have.
Only you can give your consent. If you cannot sign the form, you will be asked to give your consent either verbally or by making a mark on the form.
Contact us at any time to withdraw your consent.