What is the cervical smear test?
It is a test to check the health of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the neck of the womb. For most women the test shows that the cells of the cervix are normal and healthy. For a few women it shows changes in the cells, which if left untreated might develop into cancer, and for others it might show signs of infection.
As with other medical tests, cervical screening is not 100 per cent perfect. If you have unusual symptoms between smear tests, such as bleeding after sex, you should consult your doctor.
Remember most smears are normal.
All women aged 25 to 64 are now offered a cervical smear test by the NHS. The test is for all women, although cervical cancer is much less common in women who have never had sex.
Every year around 1500 women in the UK die from cervical cancer. Most of them have never had a smear test. The test is simple, only takes a few minutes and could save your life.
How do I get a smear test?
You will automatically receive a letter to attend from the age of 25, and then every 3 years. When you get a letter please call Cripps Health Centre on 0115 84 68888 to arrange an appointment or discuss. If you are unsure please arrange an appointment with a practice nurse to discuss further.
A smear is best taken in the middle of your menstrual cycle.
You will be asked to lie down on a couch. The nurse will gently insert a small instrument (speculum) into your vagina to hold it open. A few cells are taken from the cervix by lightly brushing it. The small brush containing the cells is dropped into a liquid container to be examined in the laboratory under a microscope.
What about sex before the test?
If you use condoms, spermicide or lubricant jelly, you should avoid sex for 24 hours before the test, as the chemicals they contain may affect the smear.
How can I find out the result?
The result of your test will be sent to your Nottingham address (or please make alternative arrangements with the nurse who takes the smear).
To download a pdf of the leaflet, Cervical screening: the facts
Translated versions of this leaflet are available on the NHS Cancer Screening website.
The NHS Choices webpages include a video explaining more about the test.
Further information is also available on the BBC Health website.