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About the NHS Cervical Screening Programme

What should women know about cervical screening

A cervical screening programme has been in place in the UK since 1988. It targets women between the ages of 20 and 64 years and invites them to attend for a test commonly known as a smear test. This has been a very successful programme which has saved many lives.

This test is carried out by nurses or doctors and involves taking a sample of cells from the outside of the cervix (or neck of the womb). This is sent to a laboratory where it is tested for the presence of certain strains of a common virus called the Human Papilloma virus or HPV.

If the virus is present the laboratory then will look at the cells to see if there are any changes which might suggest abnormal changes in the cervix. Most of these changes will get better by themselves without treatment. Some of these changes are pre cancerous and can then be treated successfully before cancer develops.

Checks for HPV
Checks for abnormal changes in the cells

Watch this video to find out more about how the screening programme works