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Cervical screening (smear tests) for people with a learning disability

You may get a letter inviting you to go for a cervical screening appointment. Some people call these smear tests. On this page we will always call them smear tests.

You might find smear tests confusing or worrying, but you are not alone if you feel this way. 

If you want to ask questions about having a smear test, you can read our information about them here. You might want a friend, carer, or learning disability nurse to read it with you. You can also call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000.


What is a smear test?

Someone having a smear test



A smear test is a free health test. It is sometimes called cervical screening. 

It makes sure your cervix is healthy. 

Your cervix is inside your body at the top of your vagina. You cannot see it.   





Video — what happens at a smear test?

This video is about smear tests. It tells you what happens at a smear test and why it is important. Women with a learning disability are in the video and helped us make it.




Do you need a smear test?

Smear tests can help stop you getting cervical cancer. It is your choice whether to have a smear test. This information can help you decide. 

Women are asked to go for smear tests from age 25 to age 64.

In England and Northern Ireland you are invited:

  • every 3 years if you are between age 25 and 49
  • every 5 years if you are between age 50 and 64

In Scotland and Wales you are invited every 5 years if you between age 25 and 64.


Any woman who has had sex with a man or a woman should think about having a smear test.

This means any kind of sex, like:

  • vaginal sex
  • anal sex
  • oral sex

It also means any kind of sexual touching, or if you have used a sex toy with someone else.

Even if you have never had any kind of sex or touching in the genital area, you can still go for a smear test. It is your choice.