This week (June 12- June 19) is cervical screening awareness week. In aid of this and as most of my readers are women I thought I would write a quick post reminding people of the importance of this screening!
A bit about cervical screening
Cervical screening is offered to women aged between 25-64 in the whole of the UK. Initially it is every 3 years and then every 5 years from age of 50 onwards.
Cervical screening doesn’t test for cancer as such but looks for abnormalities of the cells that may develop into cancer. Cervical screening (smear tests) prevent up to 75% of cervical cancers from developing, saving 5000 lives a year!
In spite of this,
1 in 4 women do not attend!
This figure is huge really. So I suppose the question is why?
Worried about it being painful or embarrassed?
Well let’s be honest it’s not a pleasurable experience is it? It’s uncomfortable physically and none of us really like doing to the doctor’s surgery and stripping off. From my personal perspective though I’m a lot less het up about this since going through child-birth. Somehow spending hours naked from the waist down with every Tom, Dick or Harry who comes into delivery room getting an open shot of your Hoo Har (or technically vagina I know!) makes you less nervous about one nurse for a 3 minute smear!
There is lots of information online about what to expect during a smear test and some tips for if your nervous include,
- wearing a skirt if you feel embarrassed so you can keep it on and just lift it up, don’t have to try to wrangle back into skinny jeans afterwards!
- Ask for a female practitioner to carry out the procedure if you feel more comfortable (make sure you ask at booking) but to be honest the majority of practitioners of screening are female these days anyway.
- bring a friend or relative with you if your feeling really nervous
- if you are worried about the procedure and it being painful discuss this with the practitioner.
If your still feeling worried about having the screening done here’s a link to a fellow blogger who has live streamed her cervical screening to reassure people it’s really not that bad;
Worried about the results?
This in many ways is understandable. We all know someone who has had cancer and it’s a scary prospect but there are a couple of points to remember if you feel this way,
- 90-94% of smear tests come back normal.
- Cervical screening offers the best prevention of developing cervical cancer, by detecting any persistent abnormal cells and allowing further investigation and removal of these cells where necessary.
Why is cervical screening only from age 25 upwards?
I know another question that always comes up on social media is why the screening only starts from the age of 25? when there are tragic cases of younger women diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.
Put really simply it’s because overall screening at a younger age would do more harm than good. This is because as I mentioned before the screening looks for abnormal cells on your cervix, not cancerous ones per say. In women younger than 25 it’s known that they may have abnormal cells but that in the majority of cases they do not persist past the age of 25, the body gets rid of them itself. If they were to screen earlier and detect these abnormal cells it would result in treatment to remove them, which like any treatment has potential complications and has a psychological cost in terms of just needing a treatment.
Unfortunately it is not possible to tell which abnormal cells will turn into cancerous ones. But what they do know is if by the age if 25 there are still abnormal cells present then these have a much higher likelihood of becoming cancerous in the future and hence treatment is recommended.
However- if you are experiencing any abnormal bleeding or pelvic pain at any age you should see your doctor.
My main point is….
please remember to go for your cervical screening, unpleasant I know but it just might save your life!
LET GO OF YOUR SMEAR FEAR!
For more information about cervical screening or cervical cancer please visit https://www.jostrust.org.uk/about-cervical-cancer/cervical-screening-smear-test-and-abnormal-cells/cervical-screening-under25