Published on: 6 December 2023

Every day in the UK, 2 women lose their lives to cervical cancer and 9 more receive a life-changing diagnosis. But cervical cancer can be prevented. HPV vaccination, cervical screening, and treatment for cell changes can all help prevent it.

Figures from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust show that 1 in 3 women and people with a cervix do not take up their screening invite. South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance are reminding people of the importance of attending screening when invited.

What is cervical screening?​​​​​​​

Cervical screening (sometimes called a smear test) 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 is available to anyone with a cervix between the ages of 25 to 64 in the UK, eligible people will be contacted and asked to make an appointment.

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.

How cervical screening is done

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

It's usually done by a female nurse or doctor. Before starting, they should explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you have.

  1. You'll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You'll be given a sheet to put over you.
  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. They'll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may 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.

The cervical screening test itself should take less than 5 minutes. The whole appointment should take about 10 minutes.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust have useful tips to make your cervical screening more comfortable and better for you. You can view them here Our cervical screening tips | Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust (


HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine helps protect against human papillomavirus (HPV). It's recommended for children aged 12 to 13 years old and people at higher risk from HPV.

The HPV vaccine reduces your chances of getting human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that's spread through skin contact (usually when having sex).

Most types of HPV are harmless. But some types are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine is given as an injection into your arm.

The number of doses you need depends on your age and how well your immune system works:

  • people under 25 usually only need 1 dose
  • people aged 25 to 45 usually need 2 doses (given between 6 months and 2 years apart)
  • people with a weakened immune system need 3 doses (ideally given within a 12 month period)
  • The HPV vaccine works very well in reducing your risk of getting HPV.

Since the vaccine has been used, there has been a big drop in the number of young people getting conditions linked to HPV, such as cervical cancer and genital warts.

Research suggests that over time the HPV vaccine will help save thousands of lives in the UK.

For more information about cervical cancer prevention, visit Cervical Cancer Prevention Week | Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust (