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Cervical Screening

Smear tests save lives by preventing 8 out of 10 cervical cancers from developing. 

Why should I have a smear test?

Cervical cancer is the 12th most common cancer in Scottish women. Smear tests help detect any changes in a woman’s cervix which might develop into cancer if left untreated.

Smear tests save around 5000 lives every year by stopping 8 out of 10 cervical cancers from developing.

If you live in Scotland and are between the ages of 25 and 49, you’ll be invited for a smear test every three years. If you’re between 50 and 64, you’ll be invited every five years.

You’ll get your invitation through the post automatically, which will ask you to make an appointment for your test. The letter will contain all the contact details you’ll need to make your appointment.

If you would like information about smear tests in a language other than English, or in an alternative format, please click here.

What will happen at my smear test?

Smear tests are usually carried out by a practice nurse or doctor at your normal GP clinic. If you prefer, you can ask for a female doctor or nurse when you book your appointment.

The test takes around five minutes. You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a couch with a blanket loosely covering you. If you are worried about undressing, you can wear a loose skirt. That way you can remain dressed and just remove your underwear.

The doctor or nurse will gently put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, which allows your cervix to be seen. A small soft brush will then be used to gently collect some cells from the surface of your cervix.

The cell sample is then sent off to a laboratory for testing, and you should receive your result within two weeks.

I’m worried about my smear test.

Whether or not to have a smear test is, of course, entirely up to you. You may be reading this, feeling nervous or anxious about an upcoming appointment, or unsure whether to even attend. Here are the answers to some common questions or worries which might help you decide.

More information can also be found in this leaflet from NHS HealthScotland :

A Smear test could save your life ]

This leaflet is available in languages other than English here 

Or on this video from Cancer Research UK:

[ What is a cervical screening test? ]


Q. I’m worried that the test results will show I have cancer.


A smear test isn’t actually a test for cancer, it’s a test that can prevent cancer. Smear tests are designed to pick up changes in the cervix that might develop into cancer in the future if left untreated.

The chances are that your test results will reassure you that everything is normal. Only 1 in 20 test results show some changes to the cervix that need further investigation.

Q. But what if I am one of the 1 in 20. What happens next?


Even if changes to the cervix are detected, in most cases this doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. The cells may go back to normal on their own.

In some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can’t develop into cancer.

Q. I’m worried it will hurt. Will it?


A smear test can sometimes cause a little discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you do find the test painful, tell the doctor or nurse right away as they may be able to help. They can, for example, use a smaller speculum if they need to.

Q. I’m too embarrassed to show my vagina to a nurse or doctor.


Please don’t be! Nurses are trained professionals who carry out thousands of test every year. No matter the shape and size of your vulva, whether it’s waxed or unwaxed, they have seen it all before and will not judge you on how you look ‘down there’.

Most of the nurses or doctors carrying out the tests are women themselves, so will have been for their own smear tests and will know how you feel about exposing the most intimate part of your body to a complete stranger. If it helps to take a friend or partner with you to the test, that’s completely fine.

Q. I’ve had the HPV vaccine so I don’t need a smear test, do I?


The HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against all types of cervical cancer, so it is still very important to attend your smear test.

Q. I’m a lesbian, so surely I don’t need a smear test?


Wrong! Anyone with a cervix – including trans men - should still have a smear test even if they are not currently sexually active. Abnormal cells can develop regardless of your sexual orientation.

Q. I missed my last appointment. How do I get screened?


If you are overdue a smear test, you can contact your GP and make an appointment.

Q. I work full time, so I just don’t have the time to go for a smear test.


Please call Jan on 07846751145 or email