Female Cancers

I’ve had a hysterectomy – do I still need cervical screening?

This is a question that can sometimes create confusion, so I’ll try and summarise the situation!

Most women who undergo hysterectomy will have their cervix removed as part of the operation – the cervix is actually the muscular neck of the womb. It will be examined by pathologists under the microscope to ensure there are no abnormalities. If it is normal, and the woman has had up to date normal cervical screening tests, then no further cervical screening is required.

There are a few situations were things may be slightly more complicated.

  • If you have had a sub-total hysterectomy then the cervix is left behind and you will need to continue to have regular screening like everyone else. This type of operation is less common and your gynaecologist would inform you if this is the case. NOTE: this has nothing to do with whether or not you have your ovaries removed – that is a totally different issue and has no bearing on cervical screening.
  • If your cervical screening was not up to date then it is recommended that you have a ‘vault’ smear, usually 6 months after the operation. This is where the smear is taken from the top of the vagina. Hopefully this is not a common occurrence as most women will be checked for up to date screening before they undergo surgery. This type of screening is usually performed by your gynaecologist.
  • If your hysterectomy has been performed because there are abnormalities in the cervix you will undergo further follow-up arranged by your gynaecologist, depending on what the abnormalities are.

Any screening performed after the cervix has been removed is arranged separately to the national screening programme – that means it is organised by your gynaecologist (or possibly oncologist if you have been treated for cancer) and you would not receive the standard letter invitation.

If you are unsure what sort of operation you had you can check with your GP.

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