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Taking a cervical screening test

Having a cervical screening test can be an anxious experience for a person.

When a person comes to you for a cervical screening test, it is important that you explain the:

Explain that a cervical screening test is not a test for cancer. It's a test to help prevent cancer from developing.

Refer them to our online guide to cervical screening.

A Desktop Guide on HPV cervical screening  is available for doctors and nurses and may be useful to reference. (You will need login details for National Screening Services Resources website to access this document).  

Who is eligible for free cervical screening tests

  • 25 to 29 years old – every 3 years
  • 30 to 65 years old – every 5 years
  • People aged 25 to 29 are screened more often because they are more likely to have HPV.
  • For people aged 30 to 65 who do not have a HPV infection, it is safe to wait 5 years between tests. In most cases, it takes 10 to 15 years for a HPV infection to change cells in the cervix and develop into cervical cancer.
  • If a participant’s 61st birthday was before 30 March 2020, their screening journey is complete and they will not receive another invitation for cervical screening.  If in doubt, you can check their eligibility.

Eligibility framework for cervical screening (PDF, 1 page, 150KB)

When screening is not recommended

In some cases, a person does not need to have a cervical screening test or they should be advised to delay it.

This could be because they are pregnant, breastfeeding, had a hysterectomy or had pelvic radiotherapy.

You should consult the guidance notes for health professionals, in particular:

Information on when cervical screening is not recommended is also available here.

Screening no longer needed

If a person no longer needs cervical screening, complete and return the Cervical Screening Not Advised form (PDF, 1 page, 115KB)

For more information on ending a person's participation in cervical screening, see Guidance Note 12 - CervicalCheck: Participation, Consent and Opt-out (PDF, 1 page, 30KB).

Before a screening test

A consent form must be completed at every cervical screening. The consent form you will need to sign is called a Cervical Screening Form (PDF, 3 pages, 500KB)

It includes an information sheet so that the person can provide informed consent. We need a person's consent so that each service provider in cervical screening can access a person's health information.

Take their PPS number

Ask the person for their Personal Public Service (PPS) number. This helps ensure that:

  • a screening test result is matched with the right person
  • we issue a letter to the right person about the next steps

The Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme (PCRS) also needs a PPS number. This is so they can process payment and reimbursement.

CSP (Cervical Screening Programme) ID

Everyone on our register is given a CSP ID. It helps us to identify anyone who has a screening test. We use the number for every letter we send in relation to a person.

The CSP ID number will also be on a person's results letter if you put it on the Cervical Screening Form. You should do this when you take every screening test.

You can check a person's CSP ID on the 'Check a person's next screening test date' facility if you know their:

  • personal public service (PPS) number
  • date-of-birth

If the person has symptoms

Do not take a cervical screening test if there is a suspicion of cervical cancer. This could delay the person's referral.

If the person has symptoms of cervical cancer, carry out a cervical examination. This is so you can decide the correct pathway to refer them.

Symptoms to be aware of include:

  • pain in the pelvis
  • bleeding between periods
  • vaginal spotting or unusual discharge
  • pain during sex
  • bleeding after sex

Refer the person urgently to colposcopy if a suspicious lesion is found during a cervical examination. This is so they can have further tests and possible treatment.

Refer the person to a gynaecologist if the cause of the symptoms is thought to be:

  • benign pathology
  • anomalies, such as cyst, polyp or trauma


For more information see Guidance note 16 — Guideline for the management of the atypical appearance of the cervix in cervical screening (PDF, 1 page, 35KB).

Guidance notes for cervical screening sample takers


Is cuid den tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála é CervicalCheck
Bosca Oifig Phoist 161, Luimneach
Saorghlao 1800 45 45 55
CervicalCheck is part of the National Cancer Screening Service
PO Box 161 Limerick
Freephone 1800 45 45 55

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Is cuid den Rannóg Sláinte agus Folláine i bhFeidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte í an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála. Cuimsíonn sí BreastCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Cíoch, CervicalCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Ceirbheacs, BowelScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Putóige agus Diabetic RetinaScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Reitiní do Dhiaibéitigh.

The National Screening Service is part of the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Health Service Executive. It encompasses BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme, CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.