Cervical screening is NOT a test to find cancer. It is a screening test to detect abnormalities (pre-cancer) at an early stage in the cells in the cervix.

Cervical screening is the process of taking a sample of cells from your cervix which are then examined to detect abnormalities that might develop into cancer in the future. The sample of cells is placed in liquid so that it can be analysed in the laboratory. This process is called liquid based cytology (LBC). Screening can detect precancerous/abnormal cells and the detection and successful treatment of these cells usually prevents the occurrence of cancer. Changes in these cells are generally caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Testing for the HPV virus itself can also be done on the same LBC sample that is examined under the microscope. For more information on HPV testing click here.

Around 1,408 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Canada [1]. Regular cervical screening provides a high degree of protection against developing cervical cancer. Not going for cervical screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer.


  1. Bruni L, Barrionuevo-Rosas L, Albero G, Aldea M, Serrano B, Valencia S, Brotons M, Mena M, Cosano R, Muñoz J, Bosch FX, de Sanjosé S, Castellsagué X. ICO Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre). Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases in Canada. Summary Report 2014-12-18.

"Cervical Screening (Smear Test)." Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. N.p., 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.