Cervical screening is a quick test to check your cervix for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
What is HPV?
HPV is a common virus that can cause many different types of cancer. HPV causes 99% of all cervical cancers.
Cervical screening looks for the presence of the HPV virus in your cervix.
Having both the HPV vaccination and cervical screening will dramatically reduce the number of people with cervical cancer in Scotland.
Cervical screening is routinely offered to anyone who:
- is a women and anyone with a cervix
- lives in Scotland
- is between the ages of 25 and 64 years
You should be offered routine cervical screening every 5 years.
What is HPV testing in cervical screening?
There have been recent changes to the cervical screening programme in Scotland.
Previously, the samples collected during cervical screening were tested to look for changes to the cells that could indicate cancer.
Now, the samples collected during cervical screening are tested for the HPV virus.
This means healthcare professionals are able to identify those who are at risk of developing cervical cancer and monitor them.
HPV testing is more accurate and reliable than the previous cell testing method.
How often should I be screened?
The frequency of cervical screening tests in Scotland has recently changed.
You’ll be invited for routine screening every 5 years if you:
- have a cervix
- are between 25 and 64 years of age
If your previous screening tests have found HPV, you may be invited for screening more regularly. This is so healthcare professionals can check to see if:
- your body has managed to get rid of the virus
- there are any new changes to the cells of your cervix
Try to remember that cell changes are not cervical cancer and having them does not mean you’ll develop cervical cancer. Most cell changes will get better themselves or with treatment. Regular screening, however, means that if you do develop cancer it will be treated early.
Your screening invitation
When you get your invitation, read the information carefully and decide whether you want to take the test.
It’s normal to feel anxious, especially at your first appointment. Don’t let it put you off. Talk to your GP or nurse as they can help with any concerns, embarrassment or past experiences.
Try to make an appointment for a day when you won’t have your period. During your period it’s difficult to get a clear view of your cervix.
You can ask for extra support for your appointment. For example, you can ask for a translator, female nurse or GP. You can also book a longer appointment if you’d like a bit more time to talk things through.
Taking the test
The cervical screening test takes a sample from your cervix. This sample is then examined for the presence of HPV.
You’ll have the test at your GP practice. The test usually takes no more than 5 minutes.
Please click this link for more information on Cervical Screening in Scotland. Information in other languages and formats are also available through this link: Cervical screening (smear test) in Scotland | NHS inform