Cervical screening is offered because it can detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix (the lower part of the womb) that could potentially develop into cervical cancer.
Abnormal cells that are picked up during cervical screening often return to normal on their own, so waiting may be recommended.
But if more significant abnormalities are detected at an early stage, there’s the option of having treatment to remove them before they have a chance to become cancerous.
It’s estimated up to 5,000 cases of cervical cancer are prevented each year in the UK because of cervical screening.
The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition.
Since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year.
All women who are registered with a GP are invited for cervical screening:
- aged 25 to 49 – every 3 years
- aged 50 to 64 – every 5 years
- over 65 – only women who haven’t been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests