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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to touch my cervix with the swab?

No, HPV is a virus so if you do have an HPV infection, it will be in the whole area inside your vagina.

Will it hurt?

Most people don't find it painful. Women who have taken self-samples in our previous studies have not reported any particular problems. Feedback is that they find the test easy and convenient to do. In studies of trans men and non-binary people, pain was not reported but some found positioning the swab difficult. 

How will I know if I have taken it correctly?

If you have followed the instructions, you can rest assured that you have almost certainly taken the sample correctly. We know that people can take good quality samples themselves.

I have my period, can I still take the self-sample?

It is best if you wait until your period has finished.

I'm pregnant, can I still take the self-sample?

If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, please do not use your YouScreen kit. The usual advice for pregnant women is to wait 12 weeks after your baby is born to have cervical screening.

If you have any questions, speak to your GP.

I'm a virgin, should I still take a self-sample?

You are at very low risk of having a cervical abnormality. It's up to you.

I'm not sexually active, should I still take a self-sample?

If you have ever been sexually active, you are still at risk of having a cervical abnormality even if you are not currently sexually active or haven't been sexually active for a long time.

I’ve had the HPV vaccine. Should I still take a self-sample?

Yes. Even if you have had the HPV vaccine you should attend for cervical screening. 

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause around 70% of cervical cancers. It does not protect you against all types of HPV.

The HPV vaccine works best if you have it before you are exposed to the virus. If you have already been exposed to HPV through sexual activity before getting the vaccine, your protection from the vaccine may be reduced.

I've already had my smear in another country, should I still take a self-sample?

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme recommends that you should still have a cervical screening test in this country, even if you've had one elsewhere.

Can I have a smear test at my GP after I return the self-sample?

No, your next cervical screening due date will be calculated based on the result of your self-sample (3 or 5 years depending on your age).

If you would prefer to have a sample taken by your GP you should not return the self-sample at all but contact your GP practice to book a smear test.

I am a trans man or a non-binary person, can I still take a self-sample?

Trans men and non-binary people with a cervix who are overdue cervical screening can take part. You must be living in Barnet, Camden, Islington, Newham or Tower Hamlets, and your GP practice must be taking part in YouScreen.   

If you are registered as female with your GP, you may be automatically invited. If you are registered as male with your GP, they may invite you directly. 

A study in the United States of America found that more than 9 out of 10 trans men and non-binary people preferred self-swabs to having a cervical screening test from a doctor or nurse.


What happens to my samples after the YouScreen study has ended?

If you give consent by writing your initials in the box on your lab consent form, the lab will keep your leftover sample with your personal details removed and send it to a research tissue bank at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust for indefinite storage.

Your leftover sample may be used for future ethically approved tests related to HPV which could help improve cervical screening in the future. Future tests will not have an impact on your health or healthcare and will be carried out without your personal details.

If you do not want your leftover sample to be kept, do not write your initials in the box on the lab consent form. If do not write your initials in this box, the lab staff will destroy your sample once they have tested it for HPV.

What happens if I move house after returning my sample?

If you move to a new address, please make sure you let your GP know your new address as soon as possible so that any results letters can reach you.

Why was HPV found (‘HPV positive’) on my self-sample but not found (‘HPV negative’) on the standard cervical screening sample taken by my nurse/doctor as a follow up test?

You can rest assured that an ‘HPV negative’ test result on a standard cervical screening test means that it is highly unlikely that you have any abnormal cervical cells, even though you had an ‘HPV positive’ result on a self-sample.

It is possible to get different HPV test results for two main reasons:

  • Self-sample tests can sometimes pick up an HPV infection in the vagina that will not cause any symptoms or problems on your cervix. They don’t need any further investigation. These infections are less likely to be picked up by standard cervical screening samples taken by a doctor or nurse.
  • Sometimes the body can fight off the HPV infection so by the time you have the standard cervical screening test it is not found any more.

No screening is 100% effective. In very rare cases, cervical screening may fail to pick up an HPV infection that needs further investigation. This is called a ‘false negative’ result. Screening also cannot prevent every cervical cancer. Cancer can develop in between screening tests. If you have any symptoms such as bleeding between periods, after sex or after the menopause, or unusual vaginal discharge, please speak with your GP as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns about cervical screening, please discuss them with your GP or contact Jo’s Trust.

What if I have other concerns?

There are lots of reasons why people can find it hard to go for cervical screening. We also recognise that cervical screening can be triggering for people who have experienced a range of issues including, sexual violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) or domestic violence. It can also be difficult for trans men and non-binary people who experience dysphoria around the procedure. We take these issues very seriously. Support and advice are available via the YouScreen Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust freephone helpline at 0808 801 0408.

Information and support can also be found here: