What You Need To Know About Cervical Screening

What You Need To Know About Cervical Screening
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There are many misconceptions about cervical screening, including the purposes and benefits of it, as well as the fears women have which prevent them from having regular screenings. In particular, women below the age of 30 have a particular aversion to the idea of smear tests and gynaecologist clinics in general, perhaps assuming that they are in a low risk group, although this is not necessarily true. Millions of women every year choose to avoid cervical screenings entirely, but unfortunately this carries dangerous risks, most notably the risk of cervical cancer developing undetected and passing the stage where it is easily treatable.

In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Programme was set up, as well as Cervical Screening Awareness Week (13th-19th June 2016), to help ensure all women are aware of the importance of regular check-ups. On average only around 75% of women who have been invited to be tested have actually had the test completed, and despite cervical cancer being detectable from an early stage, it still causes hundreds of deaths every year.

Here are some of the key facts about cervical health checks and smear tests which may help to dispel some common myths and concerns.

Smear tests are not for diagnosing cancer

Less than 0.1% of smear tests lead to this result. However, in around 5-10% of cases, early signs of minor cell changes may be detected. These are closely monitored to ensure they naturally revert to normal, which happens in most cases.

An invitation from your GP will usually indicate that you are advised to have a smear test

You are likely to receive one if you are a woman aged between 25 and 65. Tests are available at local surgeries, private gynaecologists, women’s health clinics and in some hospital departments, and you should be advised where to have yours done.

Smear tests are quick, straightforward and for most women, painless

A doctor or nurse uses a speculum to access the vagina and a brush to take a small sample of cells from the cervix. If the test itself is uncomfortable or painful, it’s important to inform your doctor as this could potentially indicate a problem.

After the procedure

The cell sample will be examined and once the results have been determined you can usually expect to hear back within a few weeks. A negative result comes back in 90% of cases and means there are no signs of a problem.

If your smear test results show something unusual

If you have an abnormal cervical screening result, you may be referred to another doctor, gynaecologist or another specialist. Whatever your results are, you will be kept informed and guided through the whole process.

If you have been advised to go for a cervical health check you should definitely speak to your doctor about arranging it, especially if you rarely visit a gynaecologist or are at all unsure about your reproductive health. The benefit of identifying signs of problems early is that in the vast majority of cases there are simple treatments available. The only problem usually comes when early indicators have been missed, so it’s vital not to let embarrassment or fear of the unknown stop you accessing an important part of your healthcare service.