Every now and again, the issue of cervical screening more commonly known as a smear tests, tends to pop up in the news.
Sadly, this is because of the decreasing number of women that chose to avoid them!
Recent news reports are stating that whilst the NHS recommends women aged between 25 and 49 should be screened every 3 years and those between 50 and 64, every 5 years, worryingly approximately 3 million women across the UK that fit into the first bracket, have not had a smear test for at least 3 and a half years!
With the screening rates being at the lowest for the last 20 years, Public Health England are said to be concerned by the decline.
And understandably so right?
For anyone that has had the pleasure of having a smear test, you will know as much as I do, it’s not the most enjoyable thing there is but it is definitely essential!
Many women feel the test is invasive and uncomfortable and as a result, manage to talk themselves out of why they don’t need the test…
That’s human nature isn’t it?
If we can genuinely justify in our minds why we shouldn’t do something that leaves us feeling compromised or in pain, naturally we stay away.
In this instance, that whole ability to do that, is not good!
Truth be told, having a smear test can save your life…it’s that real!
You may already know the ins and outs but for those that aren’t completely clear on the whole thing, let me break down for you.
The screening itself is designed to detect abnormal cell growth at the entrance of the womb (cervix).
Should any abnormal cells be found, they can be removed to prevent them from becoming cancerous.
This does NOT mean you have cancer!
Cervical screening is purely a preventative measure.
Interestingly, 1 in 20 women may receive abnormal results from their screenings – again this does not mean you have cancer and often those abnormal cells return back to normal in their own time.
Cervical cancer is rare in women under 25 but not impossible as any sexually active woman can develop the condition however, it is most commonly found in women between 25 and 29.
The test itself…yep admittedly, it’s not the best!
As I mentioned before, it’s far from enjoyable but so very necessary.
Usually you are sent a letter through the post asking you to book an appointment but if you haven’t received one yet…contact your GP, they will hook you up!
The test itself is literally 5 minutes long.
Despite the horror stories, you do not need to remove all your clothing, just your underwear!
To be honest, it’s probably best to wear a skirt for the appointment but if you do decide to wear trousers, just know they have to come off…with the underwear!
You will then be told to lie down and an instrument called a speculum will hold the walls of your vagina open whilst a small brush is used to take a sweep from the surface of the cervix.
These cells are collected and sent off for testing.
Results are usually received within 2 weeks.
It’s also useful to know; following successful trials, HPV testing has been added to the NHS Cervical Screening Programme as it was found that changes in the cells of the cervix are nearly always attributed to HPV.
HPV is the abbreviation used for the Human papilloma virus.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body (NHS).
There are more than 100 types of HPV with at least 30 variations that can affect the genital area.
If HPV is detected, further investigations may be needed.
If not, you will continue being screened every 3-5 years as usual depending on your age.
See, it’s not that bad and just think, once it’s done, you don’t have to think about it for at least 3 years, unless of course you have concerns.
Another thing to add if you are someone that likes to talk yourself out of stuff…
Don’t fool yourself into believing that just because you have no identifiable symptoms, there is no need for a screening.
I personally believe, in order to get more women on the right page with this, we need to remove the stigma from the screening.
In a lot of women, there is a genuine fear when the idea of having a smear test arises.
Re-education and rebranding with emphasis on being informative is a must!
Completely removing the term ‘smear test’ from any health related literature, could be a good place to start.
That term is just horrid isn’t it?
Yeah, OK now I know I’ve used it in this post a few times, but that’s because it’s a term we are all familiar with but yeah, it’s gotta go!
In the meantime ladies, we can’t wait for all of the above to happen so girl, grit ya teeth, book that appointment and get checked.
Its 5 minutes of your time well spent!