Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, but screening can help stop it before it starts. So don’t ignore your cervical screening invite and if you missed your last one, book an appointment with your GP practice now. Cervical screening saves lives. Find out more at nhs.uk/cervicalscreening

All women and people with a cervix aged 25-64 are eligible for cervical screening. In England, those registered as female with their GP practice will be invited for screening every three years if aged 25-49 and every five years if aged 50-64. Those registered as male will need to request an appointment from their GP practice or a local sexual health clinic.

How cervical screening helps prevent cancer

Cervical screening checks the health of your cervix and helps find any abnormal changes before they can turn into cancer.

It's not a test for cancer, it's a test to help prevent cancer.

Cervical screening checks a sample of cells from your cervix for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).

These types of HPV can cause abnormal changes to the cells in your cervix and are called "high risk" types of HPV.

If high risk types of HPV are found during screening, the sample of cells is also checked for abnormal cell changes.

If abnormal cells are found, they can be treated so they do not get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.

What is HPV?

HPV is the name for a very common group of viruses.

Most people will get some type of HPV during their lives. It's very common and nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.

You can get HPV from any kind of skin-to-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 high risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. In most cases your body will get rid of HPV without it causing any problems. But sometimes HPV can stay in your body for a long time.

If high risk types of HPV stay in your body, they can cause changes to the cells in your cervix. These changes may become cervical cancer if not treated.

If you do not have a high risk type of HPV it's very unlikely you'll get cervical cancer, even if you've had abnormal cell changes in your cervix before.