Who needs a smear test?
The NHS offers Cervical screening to all women and people with a cervix, aged 25-64 years.
This screening is offered every 3 years until the person is 50 years old and after that it is every 5 years.
The smear (PAP) test checks for high risk HPV and if this is detected, further tests are done to look at the cells for any abnormalities.
If Your test is negative for HPV you will receive a routine recall 3 or 5 years later.
If your test is positive for high risk HPV but with no cell changes you will have an annual recall for repeat smears for 3 years. If these remain positive, you will have a colposcopy at 3 years. If any of these annual tests become negative you will return to 3 or 5 yearly screening (depending on age). If any cell changes are detected you will be referred for colposcopy.
Private smears can be done in any woman who has been sexually active but in women under the age of 25 years old, cervical cancer is rare and with the HPV vaccine has reduced in prevalence further. If you are under 25 years old and would like a smear test this is something to discuss with your doctor.
Smear (PAP) tests are screening tests and are not diagnostic tests. In situations where a woman is having symptoms, a referral for a diagnostic test is usually more appropriate.