Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. It's not a test for cancer, it's a test to help prevent cancer. Screening may check for:
- abnormal cell changes in your cervix – left untreated, this could turn into cancer
- human papillomavirus (HPV) – some types of HPV can lead to cell changes in your cervix and cancer
Who's at risk of cervical cancer?
If you have a cervix and have had any kind of sexual contact, with a man or a woman, you could get cervical cancer.
You're still at risk of cervical cancer if:
- you have had the HPV vaccine – it does not protect you from all types of HPV, so you're still at risk of cervical cancer
- you have only had 1 sexual partner – you can get HPV the first time you're sexually active
- you have had the same partner, or not had sex, for a long time – you can have HPV for a long time without knowing it
- you're a lesbian or bisexual – you're at risk if you have had any sexual contact
- you're a trans man with a cervix – read about if trans men should have cervical screening
- you have had a partial hysterectomy that did not remove all of your cervix
Cervical screening is a choice
It's your choice if you want to go for cervical screening. But cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect you from cervical cancer.
Risks of cervical screening
You may have some light bleeding or spotting after cervical screening. This should stop within a few hours.
If abnormal cells are found and you need treatment, there are some risks, such as:
- treating cells that may have gone back to normal on their own
bleeding or an infection
- you may be more likely to have a baby early if you get pregnant in the future – but this is rare
- For more information to help you decide, read the NHS cervical screening leaflet.
How to opt out
If you do not want to be invited for screening, contact your GP and ask to be taken off their cervical screening list. You can ask them to put you back on the list at any time if you change your mind.