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Cervical Screening Awareness Week

Before your appointment:

  • If you are registered with a GP, you will get a letter telling you it is time for your cervical screening appointment.
  • You have to ring your GP to book an appointment.
  • You can request a double appointment if you feel that it is necessary.
  • You can also request an extended access appointment (evenings and weekends).
  • Do whatever you need to do to ensure your appointment suits you.

During your appointment:

  • Your whole visit to the GP surgery should not take longer than about 15 minutes, with the test itself only taking 3-4 minutes.
  • Your health professional will invite you into the treatment room and explain what a cervical screening is.
  • If you have any questions or issues, be sure to speak to your health professional.
  • You will then be asked to undress from the waist down, and you will be given a private space to do so.
  • You will be asked to lie on the examination bed, usually on your back with your legs bent up and your ankles together and knees apart.
  • You will be given a paper sheet to cover the lower half of your body
  • You will be told when the test is about to start. 

The test:

  • First, they will gently put a new, clean speculum into your vagina. A speculum is usually a plastic cyclinder with a round end (see picture below). This is sometimes the part that people find uncomfortable.
  • Once the speculum is inside your vagina, the nurse gently opens it so they can see your cervix.
  • The nurse will then use a small, soft brush to quickl;y take a sample of cells from your cervix. This may feel a little strange but should not be painful.
  • Your sample of cells is put into a small plastic container of liquid, which will preserve the cells.
  • That's it! The nurse will remove the speculum and give you privacy to get dressed.
  • You should receive your results within two weeks.

After your appointment:

You should be able to continue your day as usual, however some people experience some very light bleeding for a day after the test, so you may need to wear a sanitary pad or a panty liner.

Here are some Do's and Don'ts:

  • DON'T wash any more than normal on the day of your screening. Washing too thoroughly may affect the sensitivity of the test.
  • DO take someone you trust with you, if that will make you feel more comfortable.
  • DON'T book your smear test whilst you are menstruating. Try to book it for around two weeks after your last period.
  • DO wear a dress or skirt, if you feel comfortable doing so. 
  • DON'T use spermicide or lubricant jelly for 24 hours before the test, as this can affect the results.
  • DO ask to lie on your left side with your knees bent, if lying on your back is uncomfortable.
  • DO ask for a nurse or doctor of a particular gender, if this will help you to feel more comfortable.
  • DO ask for a smaller speculum, if you find the standard size uncomfortable.
  • DO talk to your nurse or doctor, if you are feeling worried, anxious, or have had an experience in the past that makes this difficult for you.
  • DON'T tense up. This can sometimes make the screening a little painful. Try to relax, and speak to the nurse or doctor to distract yourself.
  • DO encourage your friends and family to go for their smear test. It could save their life.

You should receive your results within two weeks. The vast majority of cervical screening results are normal. However if the test isn't clear, or any abnormalities are found, you will be asking to go back for another test or have a different type of test called a colposcopy. Abnormal cells do not mean you have cancer. Finding and treating the cells can actually prevent cervical cancer from developing.

 For further information or support you can visit Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust.