Imperial Collage Healthcare

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Cervical screening

Test Background
Cells are gathered using a brush that is swept over the cervix; these cells are washed into an alcohol-based preservative. A machine takes a sample from the cell suspension and sprays cells onto a glass slide. The cells are then stained and examined by screening staff and escalated to pathologists where required.

Clinical Indications
Microscopic information about the age, behaviour and nature of cells within an LBC sample are examined as a method of preventing cancer, by detecting and treating early abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer.

Sample Required
LBC – ensure that the brush is rotated, performing a full 360° sweep of the cervix. Dip the brush into the LBC pot and agitate it to wash off the cells. The brush must not be left in the sample pot (see notes)

Turnaround Time
Turnaround times for LBC samples are guided by NHSCSP. The laboratory monitors a target of 98% reported within 12 days from date of collection to receipt of the report at the PCT. High risk HPV testing occurs in accordance with the NHSCSP HPV testing protocol. Year one of HPV triage and test of cure was introduced in November 2012 and year two will commence in November 2013.


If a patient has an unsatisfactory result, a 3 month wait is recommended by the NHSCSP before a repeat smear is performed, to allow for the cervical epithelium to re-grow and for a truly representative sample to be taken. When cases require a specialist second opinion, they are referred by our pathologist to another pathologist, in line with the West London Cancer Network guidelines.

The smear taker should follow the London NHS England and North West London Pathology sample handling policy and  London QA guideline for correct sample taking, labelling and matching of all cervical samples as per minimum standards

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