A smear test is used for cervical screening. It is a simple procedure where a doctor or nurse (smeartaker) takes a sample of cells from the cervix (neck of the womb) to be examined for early changes on the cells. A smear test can identify cell changes before they become cancer cells. If these cells are not found and treated, they could become cancerous over time.
A smear test is a simple test that takes about five minutes. It may be slightly uncomfortable but should not be painful. The appointment should generally take about 15 minutes in the doctor’s surgery or health clinic.
A woman can lie on her side or on her back for the smear test. The doctor or nurse taking the test will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into the vagina to hold it open. The cervix is the area where the top of the vagina leads to the uterus (womb). The doctor or nurse will use a small, specialised swab to gently brush off a sample of cells from the cervix. This sample is sent to the laboratory to be checked.The laboratory may also test the smear test sample for certain types of HPV infection. This will help to determine the recommendation for what needs to be done next.A smear test is a screening test. As with all screening tests, cervical screening may not always be 100% accurate. There is a small risk that cell changes will not be picked up in a smear test. However, any cell changes will usually be picked up in future smear tests. This is why it is important to have regular smear tests.
Routine screening every 3 or 5 years is recommended for women whose smear test results remain normal.
To read or listen to information about smear tests, see Cervical Check