Search icon


26th Jan 2024

This is how you go about getting a smear test and everything you need to know


Have you booked your smear test yet?

Getting a smear test is something we all dread, but it is something that can save your life. Smear tests help detect abnormal cells in your cervix which can lead to cervical cancer.

So how do you go about getting one, especially if you’ve recently turned 25 and the idea is even more daunting?

Anyone 25 and over with a cervix is urged to get a smear every five years. A smear test can detect if HPV is found.

In the exam, the doctor or nurse will take a cell sample from your cervix and will test for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). This helps to see if there are any early changes in the cells or any pre-cancerous cells.

If HPV is found, the cells will be then checked for changes otherwise you are in the clear. Further testing will only be needed if there is a cell change.

HPV is a virus common in sexually active people but for women or people with cervixes, it can lead to cervical cancer. Usually, HPV clears up on its own, but there is a chance it can lead to more serious illnesses.

While HPV can be quite common in sexually active women, certain high-risk types won’t go away on their own and will need further treatment.

Anyone aged between 25 and 65 should get a letter that will invite you to book your smear test.

You can register for your smear test here.

After receiving your letter, you can then make an appointment with your GP, all you need to do is call and let them know you are due for a smear test and they will help you out.

Book your test for a time that you are not on your period or a vaginal treatment of any kind. You should also ensure you’re not pregnant before having your smear test.

Also if you have recently given birth, had a miscarriage, or had an abortion, discuss it with your doctor beforehand.

If you are in any way concerned about any issues regarding your cervix but are not due a test, you will need to pay for it.

Otherwise, the routine test is free of charge for the age range specified earlier.

Anyone out of this range will also have to pay as it is not recommended to have done unless you have specific concerns.

So what can you expect to happen when you go?

You will given details about the HPV virus, the screening process, and how the procedure will go.

You then need to give your consent and sign a form before the procedure. Going in for the test, you need to undress from the waist down. You will then lie on the bed with a cover over your lower half.

The speculum will be inserted into your vagina to hold it open.

A small brush is then inserted to extract the cell sample. The speculum will then be removed and you’re all done. The sample will then go off for testing.

The procedure is an uncomfortable one but not painful, and you can request any doctor or nurse you wish as well as having someone in the room if that is something you are comfortable with.

If you experience any bleeding or spotting, it is nothing to worry about and is completely normal. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after a few hours or is heavier than expected, you should call your GP.

The results of the test should be back to you via letter four weeks after the test. It will say that either HPV was not found, it was found but there were no abnormal cell changes found, that HPV was found and abnormal cell changes found, or that the test was inadequate.

If your test says there was no HPV found then you won’t need another test for three to five years.

Another test will be needed in 12 months if HPV is found, but it should have cleared by now.

If HPV and abnormal cells are found, you will need further testing and a colposcopy.

Check the HSE website or with your GP if you have any further questions or queries regarding smear tests.