What is a Private Smear Test and HPV screen?
At its most basic level, a private smear test (also known as a cervical screen) is a test to help prevent cancer. A cervical screening, which takes only about 10 minutes involves collecting a small number of cells from the cervix of a women’s womb and analysing them for Human Papilloma Virus and/or any abnormalities as necessary. The detection of HPV or abnormal cells is the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer as if abnormal cells are found, they can be treated early before cancer even happens. On average, 3,200 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year making it the fourth most common cancer in women. However, regular cervical screenings save a further 5000 women annually from developing cervical cancer. So, it really is worth it!
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What is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?
HPV is the name for a very common group of viruses. However, the “high risk” varieties of these viruses are the greatest cause for most cervical cancer cases in women and are associated with in excess of 99% of cases. The high risk varieties include HPV 16 & 18. The best way to detect a “high risk” HPV is having a cervical screening every 3-5 years depending on your age.
How does a smear test work?
The current recommendation is to undertake “Primary HPV screening“. This means a sample taken from the neck of the womb (the cervix) and will be tested for the high risk strains of HPV – these are the ones most commonly associated with cervical cancers. If you test is positive for any of the high risk strains of HPV, further testing will automatically be completed to look for abnormal cells – this is known as cytology. If you are negative for HPV, you are highly unlikely to have any abnormal cells or going on to develop cervical cancer, as such, the sample will not be sent for cytology and the cell do not need to be looked at further.
When do I need a smear test/cervical screen?
Each year, five million women in the UK are invited to attend a smear test by the NHS. Women aged between 24-49 are invited every three years whereas women aged 50-64 are invited every five years. Women 65 or older will only be invited for a cervical screening if one of their last three tests were abnormal.
Can I get a smear test more frequently?
Yes. You can book a private cervical screen with us. Results are returned in 2-3 days, giving you peace of mind. With your consent, we will share your results with your NHS doctor (if applicable).
Why book a Private Smear Test at London Doctors Clinic?
At London Doctors Clinic, we offer several services related to women’s health including private smear tests and HPV screenings. We understand that you may feel uncomfortable when having a smear test, especially if it’s your first screening. Our female doctors and nurses across our private GP clinics are here to help you feel at ease and comfortable throughout the entire process. Results are returned to you in 2-3 days so you’re never left worrying.
You can book your private smear test and HPV screening at any time through our online booking system or over the phone. London Doctors Clinic offers same-day appointments for smear tests and cervical screenings as well as other women’s health services.
What do I need to know about having a private smear test at London Doctors Clinic?
An appointment for a smear test should take no longer than 30 minutes, however, the process itself only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete and is normally done by a female nurse or doctor. Before the test begins, the doctor or nurse will explain the process fully and answer any questions you may have to ensure you are comfortable and fully understand what the test involves.
What should I expect during my smear test?
- You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down. This normally happens behind a screen or in another private area. Once you’re ready, you’ll be able to cover yourself with a sheet provided to you.
- The doctor or nurse will ask you to lie on your back, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart.
- They’ll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tube called a speculum into your vagina.
- The doctor or nurse will then open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
- Using a soft brush, they’ll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
- The nurse or doctor will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.
- The sample of cells will then be sent off for analysis.
London Doctors Clinic offers a number of different women’s health packages that cover multiple tests and examinations. Many of these packages include private cervical screenings however smear tests can also be offered as a standalone service.
For more information on women’s health, take a look at these articles
Medically reviewed by: Dr Daniel Fenton, GP and Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic
Reviewed: September 2020
Next review date: September 2023