Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 years old. Cervical cancer can develop when cells on the surface of the cervix (neck of the womb) begin to grow and divide abnormally. A virus called HPV (human papilloma virus) can cause these changes that may, in a few cases, turn into cervical cancer.
Most cases of cervical cancer could be prevented if women go for regular cervical screening (a smear test). By going for a regular smear test you can check the health of your cervix. The test can help to find any abnormal cell changes in the cervix before they have a chance to develop into cancer. By finding these abnormal changes early, they can be successfully treated.
The cervical screening (smear) test
The test is very simple and only takes around five minutes. It is done in private at your doctor's surgery or local health clinic. You can ask to see a female doctor or nurse. The test should not be painful, although some women do find it slightly uncomfortable.
The doctor or nurse will take a sample using a thin plastic stick with a small brush to pick up cells from the surface of your cervix which are then sent to the laboratory for testing - you will get your results in two weeks.
Most women have normal results and will not need another test for three to five years. Your test may show that changes have been found in the cells - these changes act as an early warning sign that cervical cancer might develop in the future. The abnormal cells are not cancer and can be treated easily at an outpatient clinic.
If you have any concerns about the cervical screening test or your results you can talk it over with your doctor or nurse.
Alternatively, discuss any concerns with NHS direct by phoning 111 for free
Women aged between 25 and 64 are eligible for free cervical screening
It’s very important to go for regular cervical screening (a smear test), even if you’re no longer sexually active or have gone through the menopause. Cervical screening can prevent around 75% of cancers in women who attend regularly.
- Invitation letters are sent to women aged between 25 and 64 years old
- Women between the ages of 25 and 49 are invited for cervical screening every three years
- Women aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years
If you are aged between 25 and 64 and have never been screened make an appointment now - most women have a smear test at their doctors surgery or a local health, sexual health or family planning clinic. You may ask to see a female doctor or nurse.
Additional local health clinics in Portsmouth which offer cervical screening:
- Cosham Health Centre, Vectis Way, PO6 3AW - phone 023 9221 9888 (Tuesday 4-6pm, Wednesday and Thursday 1-3pm)
- Contraception and Sexual Health clinic, Floor 2, St Mary's Hospital, Milton Road, PO3 6DP - phone 0300 300 2016 (walk in clinics 4-7pm)
Other local health clinics offering cervical screening can be found on the NHS website 'let's talk about it'