Cervical screening (taking a smear test) aims to detect and
treat abnormal changes in a women's cervix (the neck of the womb)
which, if left untreated, may develop into
invasive cervical cancer. Cervical screening is
not a test for cancer.
Early detection and treatment can prevent 75 per cent of cancers
developing but like other screening tests, it is not perfect. It
may not always detect early cell changes that could lead to
All women in Scotland between the ages of 20 and 60 are
invited for a cervical smear test every 3 years. Women with certain
abnormal smear test results are referred for further investigation
and where necessary diagnosis and treatment, called colposcopy.
Why Screen for Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is the 11th most common cancer in Scottish
women. There were 291 new cases diagnosed in women in Scotland in
2006 and 105 deaths from the disease in 2007.
The smear test
You will receive a letter from your local Primary Care Trust or
GP asking you to make an appointment for screening. You can choose
whether to have it done at your GP practice or family planning /
sexual reproductive health clinic. Most women choose to have the
test done by their GP or practice nurse. You can ask to have yours
taken by a female doctor or nurse if you prefer.
You should receive the result of your test in writing within six
weeks from the date of your test.
The smear test result
Most women receive a normal result, which means that the cells
were considered to be normal. These women are recalled for another
routine test within three years.
Some women receive an abnormal result. This means the laboratory
has identified some cell changes which need further investigation.
Not all abnormal changes need to be referred for immediate
treatment; some may disappear without the need for any treatment.
Depending upon the degree of changes, women may be asked to have a
repeat test in six or twelve months, or may be referred for colposcopy.