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  NHS Cervical Screening Programme  
Last Updated April 2014

About Cervical Screening

Cervical screening is not a test for diagnosing cervical cancer. It is a test to check the health of the cervix

Cervical screening also tests for the human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain types of HPV can cause abnormal changes in the cervix leading to cancer, just two HPV types, 16 and 18, are responsible for about 70 percent of all cases.

Around 750 women die of cervical cancer in England each year. However many of those who develop it have not been screened regularly. Not going for cervical screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer

AGE 25 - 49 :: Every 3 years

AGE 50 - 64 :: Every 5 years

Patient Information Leaflet

Who is Tested?

After your first cervical screen, you will receive invitations every three years between the ages of 25 and 49. You will then be invited every five years between the ages of 50 and 64.

The test is offered to all women aged between 25 and 64 but cervical cancer is more common if you: smoke, first had sex at an early age, have had several sexual partners or have had a sexual partner who has had several other partners or take immunosuppressant drugs (for example, after an organ transplant).

If you have passed the menopause, you still need to be tested to check that your cervix is healthy. Ask your doctor for advice if you have had a hysterectomy, are over 65, have never had sex with a man or woman or you are not sure whether you still need to be tested.


HPV Testing

If your screening result shows borderline cell changes or mild abnormalities (known as mild or low-grade dyskaryosis), an HPV test may be carried out on the sample of your cells taken during screening. This will help us decide if you need any further investigation, or if you can simply go back to routine screening in three or five years’ time (depending on your age).


Abnormal Changes

Screening may have found some small changes in the cells of the cervix. If abnormal changes (known as dyskaryosis) are detected, you will have what is called an ‘abnormal result’. If you have borderline or mild changes found at screening, you may be asked to come back again after six months for a repeat test. This is routine for any woman with borderline or mild changes if their screening sample hasn’t been tested for HPV. Your results letter will let you know if you need to come back for another screening test





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Last Update: 31 January 2008