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Cervical screening (smear test)

Cervical screening is a procedure which aims to stop cancer by detecting abnormal cells in the cervix (neck of the womb) early on. These abnormal cells can be removed to reduce the chance of a cancer growing. The first stage in cervical screening is a smear test.

A smear test is not a test for cancer. If your screening test is Negative (Normal) you will have a very low chance of having cancer of the neck of your womb.

The NHS screening programme in Scotland offers free tests every three years to women between the ages of 25 and 60 and every five years for women aged 60 to 64.

If you have not recently had a smear test, you may be offered one when you visit your GP or sexual and reproductive health clinic for something else. You should receive your first invitation for routine screening at 25.

The smear test takes less than five minutes. It is not painful but may be a little uncomfortable. A small brush is used to gently sample some cells from the surface of the cervix, which are then sent for analysis.

The results of the smear test should be available in writing to you within six weeks from the date of the smear test. If the results show that abnormal cell changes are present you will be informed that either a second smear test will be arranged or you will be sent an appointment to attend a colposcopy clinic

Treatment of abnormal cells can be performed at your colposcopy appointment if it is required; local anaesthetic is used so you won't feel it.

Very rarely a Cancer may be found.  Treatments are available and will depend on the size and spread of the cancer. You will be referred to a specialist who  will help you decide on the best treatment. This may involve an operation, chemotherapy or radiotherapy or a combination of these.