What Happens During a Cervical Smear?

Around five million women across the UK from the age of 25 are invited to attend their cervical cancer screening with the NHS also known as a smear test.  However, did you know you can book to undergo a cervical screening privately from the age of 18?

The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious, and it may not cause any at all until it's reached an advanced stage. This is why it's important to you attend all your cervical screening appointments.

In the meantime, if you're worried about cervical cancer or experiencing symptoms such as bleeding between periods, or increased vaginal discharge, do not wait to be offered screening, you should see a GP immediately.

Whether you’ve experienced a smear test or not, knowing what to expect may help the process go more smoothly, so we’ve put together some useful information to know before going for your smear.


What happens during a smear test?

During cervical screening, a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix for testing.

The test itself should take less than five minutes. The whole appointment should take around 10 minutes and it's usually done by a female nurse or doctor.

Before starting, your nurse or doctor will explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you may have.


  1. You'll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You'll be given a sheet to put over yourself
  2. The nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. Sometimes you may need to change position during the test
  3. The nurse will gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may also be used
  4. The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix
  5. Using a soft brush, they'll take a small sample of cells from your cervix
  6. The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed


Things you can try to make the test easier

If you're worried about cervical screening, there are things you can try that might make the test easier for you:

  • Wear something you can leave on during the test, like a skirt or long jumper
  • Try breathing exercises to help you relax
  • Ask the nurse to use a smaller speculum
  • Ask the nurse about lying in a different position – such as on your side with your knees pulled up to your chest
  • Bring something to listen to or read during the test


Things to look out for after cervical screening

You may have some spotting or light bleeding after your cervical screening test. This is very common and should go away after a few hours. However, you should contact GP if you have:

  • Heavy bleeding after cervical screening
  • Any bleeding after cervical screening that does not stop after a few hours


At Pall Mall, we offer private and discreet cervical screening services, click here for more information or call us on 03300 58 44 55.


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