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Why is the population screening programme for women aged 30 to 60?

The cervical cancer population screening programme can help us check whether a person is at risk of cervical cancer. Early detection can prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer occurs in people of all ages, but most commonly in women aged 30 to 60. Which is why these people are invited for population screening.

Want to have the smear test done but lost the invitation?

Did you lose the invitation letter? You can ask for a new invitation letter on My Population Screening, To log in, you need a DigiD. You can also contact Bevolkingsonderzoek Nederland.

Can I take part in the population screening if I have my period?

No, you can’t. If there is blood in the smear or self-sampling kit, it cannot be examined properly. You should wait before you take part for a few days until after your period.

Cervical cancer

What is cervical cancer?

The name actually says it all: cervical cancer means having cancer cells in your cervix. These cancer cells form when your body does not clear HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) on its own. This does not happen in 1% of cases. In those cases, HPV develops into cervical cancer in 10 to 15 years. That may not sound much, but in practice it still means that an average of 900 women a year are told they have cervical cancer.

How likely am I to get cervical cancer?

Not very. More than 550,000 people took part in the population screening in 2021. On average, 900 women each year are told that they have cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer occurs when your body does not clear HPV (Human Papillomavirus) on its own. Your body is more likely to fail to clear HPV if you:

  • Have a weakened immune system, for example due to the use of certain medicines, such as medication after an organ transplant. Also, having HIV weakens your immunity, making it more likely for you to get cervical cancer.
  • Smoking, because smoking damages cells and weakens your immune system.
  • Have a Chlamydia or Herpes infection
  • Have multiple HPV infections
  • Have multiple different sex partners, making it simply more likely for you to get infected with HPV.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer can cause various symptoms. For example, abdominal pain, different bodily discharge than you are used to and bleeding between your periods or after sex. If you have these symptoms, it does not mean you have cervical cancer, but it is important to contact your GP.

You don’t always experience symptoms when you have cervical cancer. Therefore, it is important to take part in the screening, even if you do not have any symptoms.

I am not having sex yet, can I still get cervical cancer?

The chances of getting cervical cancer if you haven’t had sex yet are slim, but not non-existent. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, the Human Papillomavirus. This is a highly contagious virus. You can also get the virus by touching a penis or vagina and through oral sex. In that case, HPV is transmitted through hands, skin and mouth.


What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, which is a virus that can cause cervical cancer. It can cause cancer, but not necessarily. Usually, the body clears the HPV virus on its own. If not, the cells may develop abnormalities, which can eventually turn into cervical cancer.

How do you get HPV?

You get HPV by engaging in sexual acts. It can be transmitted through hands, mouth, skin, through the penis and vagina and through oral sex. You can also get HPV if you have had the same partner all your life, always use condoms, or have a female sexual partner. The virus is highly contagious; almost everyone gets it at some point.

Is HPV only transmissible between men and women?

No, HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) can be transmitted between women and men, between women and women and between men and men through sexual contact.

I got an HPV vaccination. Why do I get an invitation?

The HPV vaccination offers much better protection against cervical cancer. But not 100 per cent. This is why you are invited to take part in the cervical cancer population screening programme even if you have already been vaccinated.

I am in a monogamous relationship. Can I still get HPV?

Yes, you can. Many people become infected during one of their first sexual contacts. An HPV infection can be dormant (latent) in small, unmeasurable amounts. This latent infection can flare up and become active. If so, the population screening can help detect the infection.

So even if you are in a monogamous relationship, it is still important to take part in the population screening.

The examination

I am transgender. Can I take part?

If you have had an administrative gender change to female, you will receive an invitation for the cervical cancer population screening programme.


If you have had an administrative gender change to male, you will not automatically be invited for the cervical cancer population screening programme.


If you have had an administrative gender change to X, you will not automatically be invited for the cervical cancer population screening programme.


For more information, click here.

Self test or smear test?

You take the self-test at home, in your own familiar surroundings, at a time that suits you. You use a stick to collect some material from the vagina, which will then screened for the HPV virus. If you have HPV, you still need to see your GP for a smear test. If you don’t have HPV, then the screening is done. You will need to make an appointment at your GP practice for a smear test. The doctor’s assistant or GP takes some material from the cervix. This is also initially screened for HPV. If you don’t have HPV, then the examination is done. If you do have HPV, then they already have the material to also look at the cells as. This will complete the examination.

Does a smear test hurt?

No, a smear test does not hurt, but it can feel a little uncomfortable. Say so if this is the case. The doctor’s assistant can then take this into account. For example, by using a smaller speculum. It is important that you feel completely comfortable during the examination.

How do I use the self-test?

The device is very easy to use. If you follow the enclosed instructions with pictures, the procedure should go smoothly. Remove the stick from the container and hold the stick by placing your fingers on the red mark. Insert the stick into the vagina up to the red mark and rotate it several times to collect vaginal material. Then place the stick back inside the container and push the cap onto the tube until you feel it click. Send the container using the return envelope. You will receive the results whether you have HPV or not within 4 weeks.

How do I know if I took the self-test correctly?

You can hardly go wrong. The self-test comes with instructions and an instructional video. If you follow all the steps in the instructions, then you can’t go wrong.
It very occasionally happens that a test cannot be properly assessed in the laboratory. In that case, we will send you a new self-sampling kit.