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Smear tests (cervical screening)

Smear tests save 4,500 women’s lives every year in England alone.

All women who are registered with a GP are invited for smear tests:

  • aged 25 to 49 – invited every three years
  • aged 50 to 64 – invited every five years
  • over 65 - only women who haven't been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests

Your invitation letter will ask you to contact your GP to make an appointment for your routine smear test. 

If you are eligible and have not received an invitation to attend a smear test please contact your GP practice to discuss. Or, if you are due or overdue your smear test, please book appointment with your practice nurse. 

Please note our clinics no longer provide routine smear tests (cervical screening).

Whether you are straight, lesbian, bisexual or transgender you are encouraged to have regular cervical screening tests, between the ages of 25 and 64 years.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which we now know is the main factor in causing cervical cancer, can be spread by genital skin-to-skin contact. It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation or sexual history is you can, and should get your test when it's due!

Research has shown that lesbian and bisexual women are twice as likely to have never had a cervical smear test, compared with straight women – yet no woman should discount herself from having her routine smear test, irrespective if her sexual orientation.

About your smear test

Having your regular smear test (also known as cervical screening) is a very important part of being a woman. Some women may feel anxious or embarrassed about having a smear test, but the aim of a smear test is to detect abnormal cells on the cervix (the entrance to the womb), which could lead to cervical cancer.

A smear test isn't a test for cancer, it's a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

Most of these changes won't lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can't become cancerous.

About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.

It's possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged 30 to 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.

Read more about your appointment.

Useful websites

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust 


Last updated: 07/04/2020