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What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix by testing for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is seen to be useful in detecting women who are highly at risk of cervical cancer. In the NHS, or at your GP, the smear test only checks for the the HPV virus, whereas at our clinic, we test our patients for both the HPV virus as well cancerous cells (cytology).

Why is it important to have a smear test?

Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. The HPV test is not a test for cancer, it is a test used to help prevent cancer. Cytology tests for cancerous or potentially cancerous cells.

What is HPV?

HPV is the name for a group of very common viruses. Most people will have some type of HPV at some point in their lives. You should not be embarrased or ashamed about having HPV.

HPV can be transferred by any type of skin-on-skin contact of the genital area, not just from penetrative sex. This includes:
  • vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • sharing sex toys
Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. These are known as "high risk". Typically your body will get rid of HPV by itself with no problems, but HPV can stay in your body for a long period of time. If a high risk type of HPV stays in the body, they can cause changes to the cells in your cervix. These changes can become cervical cancer if not treated.

If you do not have a high risk type of HPV then it is very unlikely that you will develop cervical cancer.
Find out more about cervical screening:
Why is it important?What is HPV?Am I at risk of cervical cancer?
Length of procedure:
30 Minutes
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You are still at risk of cervical cancer if:

  • You have had the HPV vaccine. This does not protect against all types of HPV, so you can still develop cervical cancer.
  • You have only had one sexual partner.
  • You have not had sex for a long time, or have been with your current partner for a long time. You can have HPV without knowing it.
  • You are a lesbian or bisexual - any sexual contact can spread HPV
  • You are a trans man with a cervix (womb)
  • You have had a partial hysterectomy which did not remove your entire cervix (womb)

Cervical Screening - Specialists

Mrs Ruchira Singh

Mrs Ruchira Singh

Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Ruchira is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with her NHS practice based at Birmingham Women's Hospital in Edgbaston. She is the Clinical Director of Gynaecology at her NHS Trust.

Ruchira is a reviewer for European Journal of Obstetrics and gynaecology. She is also a Senior clinical examiner and Honorary lecturer for University of Birmingham.

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