Close Mobile Navigation

HPV and Cervical Screening

A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a free test to check the health of your cervix.4 It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to see if you are at risk of developing cancer.4 ​

Anyone with a cervix can potentially develop cervical cancer.4 90% of cervical cancers are caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).4 HPV is spread through any kind of sexual contact with a man or a woman.4 HPV that doesn’t go away is called persistent HPV and can cause changes to the cells of the cervix over time.4 ​

Anyone with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 65 is advised to go for regular screening when it is due.9 This proactive approach is crucial in detecting any potential issues early on and ensuring timely intervention, if necessary.​10

If you are aged 25 to 29: You are screened every 3 years.9 

If you are aged 30 to 65: You are screened every 5 years.9 

Visit for more information.

What happens during a cervical screening appointment? 

Your cervical screening test will take place at a GP surgery or a clinic. The procedure involves obtaining a small sample of cells from your cervix for testing.11 The sample is then sent to a lab where it will be examined for the presence of HPV.11 If HPV is detected, your sample will be checked to see if you have any abnormal (pre-cancerous cells) cells in your cervix.12

If HPV is not found, there is no need to check for abnormal cells.12 This is because your risk of developing cervical cancer is very low if you do not have HPV. 

After your screening appointment you will receive a letter, usually within 4 weeks, with your cervical screening test results.12

Understanding your results letter:

HPV not found

You don’t have a HPV infection at this time.12 Your next screening test will be in 3/5 years depending on your age.12

HPV found but no abnormal cell changes found

You have a HPV infection at this time, but no abnormal cell changes were detected.12 You will have a repeat screening test in 1 year, which may give your body enough time to clear the virus.12 Your repeat test will check to see if the infection has gone, if it has you can return to screening every 3/5 years depending on your age.12 If it hasn’t you will be referred to colposcopy.12

HPV found and abnormal cell changes found

You have a HPV infection and abnormal cells have been detected in your cervix.12 You will be referred to colposcopy by your doctor or nurse for further treatment.12 A colposcopy is a simple procedure that involves a closer look at your cervix.13 If you’d like more information on this, please talk to your doctor or nurse who will explain in more detail.