Women and people with a cervix between the age of 25 and 65 should go for regular cervical screening when it’s due.
When you can book a cervical screening test
If you are on the CervicalCheck register, you'll be invited for cervical screening from age 25.
You'll have your last cervical screening test between age 60 to 65.
You'll get a letter from us when your test is due.
You can book a free cervical screening test:
- when you get your letter
- if you check the register and your test is due
- if you are age 25 and older and are not on the register
The number of years between your screening tests changes depending on your age.
Age 25 to 29
You are screened every 3 years. You are screened more often than people over 30 because you are more likely to have HPV.
Age 30 to 65
You are screened every 5 years from age 30 to 65.
You'll usually have your final cervical screening test between age 60 and 65. If you have not had a free cervical screening test before age 65, you may be invited back to book it.
If you have never had a cervical screening test, you can ask any registered GP or clinic for a free cervical screening test up to age 65.
It's safe to wait 5 years between screening
It is safe to wait for 5 years between screening tests if you do not have a HPV infection.
This is because:
- your risk of developing cell changes is very low
- a test showing that you do not have a HPV infection is more reliable than a test finding normal cells
In most cases, it takes 15 to 20 years for a HPV infection to develop into cervical cancer.
If you had a recent test
If you had a recent test and your smear or cervical screening test results were normal, you will be invited for HPV cervical screening 3 or 5 years after your last test. This will depend on your age.
But if you are HPV positive you may need screening more often.
If your results found low-grade abnormal cells, follow the advice you were given in your result letter.
If you have had a colposcopy or treatment for abnormal cells, your colposcopist will tell you when to have a cervical screening test.
If you missed your last test
You do not need to wait for a letter to book an appointment if you missed your last cervical screening test. You need to book your screening test yourself.
If you are not due a test but want to have one
If your test is not due, but you still want to have one, you can pay for a private screening test. This test will not be free as it is not part of the national screening programme.
Your screening history
Having an accurate record of your screening history helps us to make sure you get the best treatment or advice.
But we can only access information on tests taken within the CervicalCheck screening programme.
Your screening history will not include information on any private tests you have. For example if you had a smear test, HPV screening or colposcopy as a private patient.
The lab that tests your private test sample will also not have access to your screening history.
If you have never had a cervical screening or smear test
If you've never had a screening test before, you can still have one with a registered GP, doctor or clinic. You just need to be aged 25 to 65.
If you are breastfeeding
You can still have a screening test if you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does not affect your test.
You may find having the test is a little uncomfortable. This is because breastfeeding can affect your hormone levels.
You can discuss ways of making it more comfortable for you with the doctor or nurse taking the test.
Wait for at least 3 months after you've given birth to have a test.
If you have had a hysterectomy
You may need to continue to have screening tests if:
- you have had a subtotal hysterectomy (your uterus was removed) and you still have a cervix
- changes in the cells in your cervix were detected before you had a hysterectomy
- there were cell changes on your cervix at the time of your hysterectomy
- the hysterectomy was for treating cervical abnormalities (cancer or pre-cancerous conditions)
- the histology of the cervix is not available (histology is the study of the cells and tissue)
Talk to your GP. They will tell you if you need a screening test.
If you are unsure what type of hysterectomy you had, ask your GP.
CervicalCheck cannot tell you if you should have cervical screening after having a hysterectomy. We do not have access to your medical history.
If you have had a total hysterectomy, your GP can tell you if you should continue to have screening tests. A total hysterectomy is when the uterus and cervix are removed.
If the test before your hysterectomy found abnormalities, you may need to have another test. Your doctor will tell you when to have the test. The test will take a sample from the top of your vagina. This is called a vault smear.
Trans men and cervical screening
If you have had a total hysterectomy to remove your cervix, you might still need to have cervical screening tests.
This may be because abnormal cells were found in your cervix before or at the time of your hysterectomy. Talk to your GP. They will tell you if you should continue to have screening tests.
If you are aged 25 to 65 and still have a cervix, you should attend cervical screening.
When trans men with a cervix will be invited for cervical screening
If you are registered with the Department of Social Protection as female, you should receive invitation letters to make an appointment for cervical screening. If you have a cervix, you should attend.
If you're registered with the Department of Social Protection as male, you will not receive invitation letters but you can still have cervical screening. Talk to your GP.
Some people will need tests more often
The number of years between your screening tests changes depending on your age. But you may need to attend screening tests more often, such as every 12 months.
This is if you are HPV positive, need extra monitoring or have certain health conditions.
We will send you a letter to let you know if you need to attend more often.
If you have a weak immune system
In most cases, you do not need to have cervical screening more often if you:
- have an autoimmune condition
- take immunosuppressive medicine
But if you are HPV positive you may need screening more often.
If you are living with HIV
If you are living with HIV, you should have screening tests every year until age 65.
You should have a cervical screening test within a year of your HIV diagnosis.
If you are having or have had an organ transplant
You should have a screening test in the 12 months before your transplant. For example, if you are having a kidney, liver, heart, lung or pancreas transplant.
After your transplant, you should have screening tests every year until age 65.
If you have kidney failure
You should have a cervical screening test shortly after you have been diagnosed with kidney failure.
If you are on dialysis, you should have screening tests every year until age 65.
If you have never had sexual contact
Your risk of developing cervical cancer is very low if you have never had any kind of sexual contact. This does not mean there is no risk of developing cervical cancer. But there is a very low risk.
If you have never been sexually active, you may decide not to go for cervical screening when you are invited. But you can still have a test if you want one.
If you're not sure if you should have cervical screening, talk to your GP or practice nurse.
What we mean by sexual contact
HPV is the name for a very common group of viruses.
You can get it from any kind of physical or sexual contact of the genital area - even if you use a condom.
Sexual contact includes:
- any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
- vaginal, oral or anal sex
- sharing sex toys