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June 2023 — Please be aware that this page is currently undergoing review. However, the information
stated is valid.
Although coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, you may still have questions about going for screening. We hope this page gives you answers or points you in the right direction to get them.
The NHS Cervical Screening Programme is running as normal in all nations of the UK and is inviting people for screening. If you have had your invitation, you can contact your GP surgery to book an appointment. If you missed an appointment during the pandemic for whatever reason, you can book in now.
We know you might have questions or want to talk things through. You can call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000 and chat with our friendly volunteers.
If you would like to go to cervical screening but are worried about coronavirus, you need to consider your personal situation. As always, it is your choice whether to go to cervical screening.
If you have had an invitation, it is now safe to go to your GP surgery for cervical screening. Your GP surgery will have put in place safety measures to keep you, and their staff, safe and well. If you want to understand exactly what your GP surgery is doing, you can contact them by phone or online.
If you have an appointment booked, and you have coronavirus symptoms, or have been in contact with someone who does, contact your GP surgery and let them know. They can help rearrange your appointment.
There are lots of reasons that could lead to your appointment being cancelled after you’ve booked it. You can rebook for another time.
We know that having to wait for your appointment may make you anxious. In most cases, a short delay should not cause any problems, but if you are very worried you can always contact your GP surgery for reassurance. We are also here to support you on 0808 802 8000.
Symptoms of cervical cancer include:
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important you contact your GP surgery by phone or online to get advice. You do not have to wait for a cervical screening invitation.
A doctor may first assess you over the phone or by video call. Then, once they know more about your individual situation, they may decide whether they need to see you at a face-to-face appointment to do a further examination.
It is important to remember that cervical cancer is rare, so the likelihood that your symptoms are caused by cervical cancer is low. However, it is still important to get medical advice.
Yes. Your GP surgery will only offer cervical screening if they are confident they can keep you and their staff safe. You can support them by following any instructions they give you, for example about arrival times or wearing a face covering.
The cervical screening test itself, where your nurse or doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix, will be exactly the same as before the pandemic and should only take a couple of minutes.
There are a number of safety measures that your GP surgery may have put in place. The measures they choose will depend on different factors, including the people who use the GP surgery (for example, if there is a large vulnerable population), the size of the GP surgery, and the staff and resources the GP surgery has access to. Your GP surgery will make these decisions with your safety, and the safety of their staff, as a priority.
We have listed some of the safety measures you might see at your appointment. You might not see every measure in this list, and you may see some we don’t mention, but knowing them may help you feel prepared for your appointment:
You may choose to wear a face covering to your appointment.
Some GP surgeries are providing people with face coverings when they arrive. You may want to ask your GP surgery about this when booking an appointment.
Your GP surgery should give you specific instructions about what to do once you arrive at your appointment, either when you book or a few days before your appointment.
GP surgeries will carry out their own risk assessment depending on how busy the surgery gets. You may be asked to wait outside the building, sometimes at a specific door and keep a suitable distance away from other people. If you are asked to do this, your nurse or doctor will come and collect you when it is time for your appointment.
If you are invited to wait inside your GP surgery and you do not want to, you can choose to wait outside – just make sure you let your nurse or doctor know where you are.
Some GP surgeries are currently allowing for longer appointment slots, usually about 30 minutes, which includes time spent waiting for your appointment and being shown to the examination room. However, the test itself, where your nurse or doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix, should only take a few minutes.
You will still have time to ask any questions you want to ask before and after your appointment – your nurse or doctor is there to support you with any concerns.
Your cervical screening appointment will be with a doctor or a nurse. You can ask your GP surgery about this when you book your appointment.
Your GP surgery will have safety measures in place to make this risk as low as possible. You can also help protect yourself and others by following these measures before, during and after your appointment:
If you are still worried and want to talk any of these measures through, give our Helpline a call on 0808 802 8000. You can also contact your GP surgery to ask about their safety measures, which may help lessen any concerns.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness, which means it affects the lungs and airways. It is most commonly spread by droplets from the mouth or nose, when someone coughs or sneezes.
Cervical screening is not considered high risk for passing on or getting coronavirus. You can also keep the risk low by following any instructions your GP surgery give you about safety measures.
You may now be able to have a trusted person with you if you need extra support or assistance. Tell your GP surgery when you book your appointment and they may allow someone else to come with you.
You may also be able to have an extra member of staff with you, if having another person in the room is helpful. This person is sometimes called a chaperone.
We understand that you might find cervical screening difficult. Remember your nurse or doctor is there to support you and can discuss any concerns before your appointment. We are here too, to listen before and after your appointment on 0808 802 8000.
You can still ask to book a longer or double cervical screening appointment. Your GP surgery will be able to tell you if this is possible.
Yes. Your GP surgery may have different sized speculums. If you find the standard size uncomfortable, you can ask for a smaller one to be used.
You can still ask to put the speculum in yourself if this would make you feel more comfortable.
You can ask if a specific nurse or doctor is available to do your cervical screening, but be prepared that this may not be possible. This may be because the nurse or doctor is not currently doing cervical screenings, perhaps because they are needed elsewhere, or are not due to work at the times cervical screening appointments are being done.
If you would prefer to wait for a specific nurse or doctor before having cervical screening, you can choose to do this.
Specialist clinics are open for cervical screening:
If you want to talk through your options, we are here for you – call us on 0808 802 8000.
Many GP surgeries do not offer cervical screening at home, and didn't even before coronavirus. It is best to contact your GP surgery and ask what they can offer, particularly if you can’t access cervical screening at the surgery due to a disability.
You should still get your results within 4 to 6 weeks after your appointment. However, your results may be delayed – this may be because your lab is processing a lot of cervical screening tests.
Your nurse or doctor should tell you when to expect your results at the appointment. If they didn’t, or you haven’t had your results within the expected time, you can call your GP surgery to ask when they might arrive.
We know a delay to your cervical screening appointment may cause anxiety, especially if you have had HPV or cell changes in the past. It may help to know that HPV and cell changes take many years to develop into cervical cancer, not months, and cervical cancer itself is rare. So, while we can’t be certain, it is unlikely that these would develop within the short time that your appointment is delayed.
We know this might not take away all of your concerns, so if you want to talk any of this through, we are here for you. You can call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000 or submit your questions to our panel of experts.
There is no evidence to suggest you are at a higher risk of getting or becoming seriously ill with coronavirus because you have or have had HPV.
However, we understand that you might still be worried. If you want to talk or have questions about HPV, our friendly Helpline volunteers can help – give them a call on 0808 802 8000. Or, if you have a general question about HPV, you can submit it to our Ask the Expert service.
There is no evidence to suggest you are at a higher risk of getting or becoming seriously ill with coronavirus because of an abnormal cervical screening result or cervical cell changes.
If you want to talk or have questions about cell changes, our friendly Helpline volunteers can help – give them a call on 0808 802 8000. Or, if you have a general question about cell changes, you can submit it to our Ask the Expert service.
There is no evidence to suggest you are at a higher risk of getting HPV or cell changes because of coronavirus.
However, we understand that thinking about HPV or cell changes can be scary. If you want to talk or have questions, our friendly Helpline volunteers can help – give them a call on 0808 802 8000. Or, if you have a general question about HPV or cell changes, you can submit it to our Ask the Expert service.
Whether it’s your first time or you have been before, going for cervical screening may make you anxious, especially if you are worried about coronavirus. If you have questions or need some emotional support, we are here for you before and after on 0808 802 8000.
We also have a welcoming community in our online Forum, where you can get and give support. There are lots of conversations about cervical screening, so you can choose to read existing threads or post your own messages.
Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, including the Cervical Screening Programmes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Thanks also to the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it.
We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]