This week is Cervical Cancer Awareness Week and Pandelis Athanasias, a gynae consultant at Spire St Anthony’s Hospital, has answered some common questions he gets asked that could help us learn more about smear tests.

A smear test, also known as cervical screening, is used to help prevent cervical cancer.

They check the health of the cervix (the entrance to the womb) and are free in the UK for women aged between 25 and 64.

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Questions about smear tests answered by a gynecologist

How long is the wait for my smear test results?

The results should be posted to you within two weeks. 

If you test negative for the types of HPV known to cause changes in your cervix: no further tests are needed. The next screening will be in 3-5 years, depending on your age.

If you test positive for HPV: your sample will be tested for changes in your cells. If changes aren’t found, you can have another test in a year.

If changes in cells are found: You will go for a colposcopy - a minimally invasive procedure that further examines your cervix and will potentially remove abnormal cells. 

Can you have a smear test when pregnant?

No, as the pregnancy can interfere with the results so you should reschedule your appointment if you’re due to go while pregnant.

You should wait at least 12 weeks after giving birth before having your smear test.

Can you have sex before a smear test?

Avoid having sex for 24 hours before because sex can cause the cells that line the cervix and are collected to become irritated and inflamed, interfering with your test results.

Vaginal discharge produced during sex can also interfere.


Does a smear test hurt?

Most women don’t feel pain during the test but it might feel uncomfortable.

If you start to feel pain or discomfort, you can ask your doctor or nurse to take a break.

Can you have a smear test on your period?

No, as the blood cells can interfere with the effectiveness of the test.

It’s recommended you avoid having a smear test during, two days before and two days after your period.

Appointments can be changed if you think you’ll have your period at the same time as the smear test.

Can I have an earlier smear before 25?

You can’t on the NHS although you can request an early one privately with Spire Healthcare.

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What happens in a smear test?

  • You’ll remove all clothing from the waist down, lie on your back on an examination bed or couch
  • A speculum is inserted into the vagina
  • A soft brush is then inserted through the speculum to reach the cervix – it’s rotated to collect cells
  • The cells are sent to a lab
  • The smear test should take five minutes, you can get dressed after and carry on with your day
  • Spotting or light bleeding for a few hours after the test is normal

If you’re nervous or anxious, you can take someone with you for moral support and let the health professional know how you feel.

You can do deep breathing exercises or listen to music to keep you calm.

You can wear a pantyliner if you’d like after the smear test in case of spotting or light bleeding for a few hours after which is normal.

You can find out more about women's health via the Spire Healthcare website.