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Taking Control: The Benefits of Private Cervical Screen Tests

January 25, 2024

If you are between 25 and 64 and eligible for NHS care you will already be enrolled in a cervical screening program. The ‘smear test’ as it has been previously known however has now changed. The test used to involve taking cells from your cervix to look at under a microscope (cytology). The NHS now only test your cervical sample for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The test is carried out in the same way so you will not notice a difference.

Why the Change to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Screening?

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a virus that is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. HPV has many strains. Some of these strains are classed as high-risk and can go on to cause cervical cancer in women. The new test screens women for HPV only. This is because if HPV is present, then cell changes are also likely to be present on the cervix.

If you have a “positive” HPV result on your test, the sample will automatically be further tested to look at the cells collected from your cervix. If you have a “negative” HPV result, no further analysis will be done.

HPV testing is more accurate than the previous cytology-only screening, but many women are still keen to continue the cytology part of the screening. In the USA, for example, it is advised to have an HPV screen every year and a combined HPV and cervical screen cytology test every 5 years.

Private Options at Private GP Services

At Private GP Services, we can offer the HPV AND the additional option of the cytology cell testing as standard. The NHS HPV test is a very good screening tool, but for those patients who may not have had the cervical cancer vaccination or who would like more frequent testing, the private route may be preferable.

Screening Suitability

Please be aware that the test is not always appropriate.

This is a screening test, to pick up a health issue that has no symptoms. If you have symptoms such as irregular bleeding, the smear test may not be the right test for you. A gynaecology referral, particularly if you are under 25 may be the more appropriate course of action.

Medical Considerations

If the test is not right for you for medical reasons, the doctor will offer you the appropriate medical advice based on the examination and findings. In this instance, the charge will be for an appointment only.

As the tests are subject to payment on the day of the consult, it is important to minimise the risk of “inadequate” sampling, especially as your doctor cannot accurately predict when an inadequate test will arise. 

These tips could minimise this risk:

  • Attend in the first half of your cycle e.g., the week after your period stops. The cervix is more favourable for testing at this time of your cycle.
  • Be aware that in patients over 65, the risk of an inadequate sample is higher: Over 65 years of age, it can be harder to get cervical cells from the cervix. This does not apply to HPV testing. The over-65 age group may be offered oestrogen cream to help this considering an inadequate test result where the patient would like cytology.

Frequently asked questions

Q. If I opt for HPV testing only privately and I have a positive result, how much will it then cost to have the cells (cytology) examined for cancerous change?

A. If the HPV is “positive”, the cytology will be carried out automatically and without incurring further charges.

Q. If I opt for an HPV testing only and this is negative, can the cells (cytology) be done too?

A. No. You must advise and pay at the time of booking for HPV testing AND cells (cytology) to be looked at if your HPV test is negative.

Q. I have had cervical cancer in the past, what test should I have?

A. HPV and cervical cell examination is a screening tool to pick up new cancers. It is not for the treatment or follow-up of a known cancer. If you have had a known cervical cancer your oncologist/gynaecologist will have advised you what monitoring, you require.

Q. I have had an inadequate smear, can I have a refund?

A. No. As 7% of smears are returned as inadequate despite all factors that may affect it being minimised, a refund is not due. If a test is undertaken, and the result is inadequate, you will need to pay in full for repeating the test and further time with the doctor in 3 months.

Q. The HPV screen was “positive”, but the lab could not report the cells from the cervix as they said the material was inadequate

A. This is unusual. It is an inadequate test, and you will need to repeat it 3 months’ time at the correct charge.

Q. Can I just have the cervical cytology test on its own without HPV?

A. No, the laboratory no longer offers this test on its own.

Q. Can I submit my private result to the NHS screening service

A. No, private screening is an additional separate service.

Q. How long do results take?

A. 5-10 days


Learn more about our women’s health service.