Importance of Cervical Screening

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Why is the cervical screening test important?

Cervical cancer is not uncommon. In recent years the number of cases has fallen due to cervical screening tests. However, there are still over 2,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year in the UK. Most of these occur in women who have never had a screening test, or who have not had one for many years. Cervical cancer can be prevented if you have regular screening tests 

What is cervical screening?

Women are routinely invited to have regular cervical screening tests ( smear tests) depending on their age this could be every 3 years in the UK on the NHS. The tests are done to prevent cervical cancer (and not to diagnose cancer as some people wrongly think). During each test some cells are removed from the cervix with a plastic brush. The cells are examined under a microscope to look for early changes that, if ignored and not treated, could develop into cancer of the cervix. If abnormal cells are found, these can be treated (removed).

Cervical cytology smear results are reported as:
• Normal.
• Inadequate.
• Abnormal

About 9 in 10 routine cervical screening tests results are normal. If your result is normal you should continue to attend for regular smear test, depending on your age and previous result history. A normal result means you have a very low chance of developing cervical cancer. It is not a guarantee that cervical cancer will not occur.

I have never had sex – Do I need a cervical screening test?

The test is recommended for all women – even if you have never had sex. However, the risk of getting cervical cancer is very low if you have never had sex. This is because the main cause of cervical cancer is a past infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that is normally passed on by having sex. There are other, less common types of cervical cancer, not caused by HPV, so women who have never had sex are still at risk

When should I have more frequent smears than routine 3 yearly cervical screening?

If you have had previous abnormal smears you may need more frequent smears-ask your doctor

Also if you have symptoms of irregular bleeding between periods or after intercourse then see your doctor

Can I have my cervical screening test when I am having my period?

It is best to have your cervical screening test when you are not having your period. Ideally the test is best performed mid-cycle. With the new technology you can have the test done at any time but, if you are bleeding heavily, there may be too much blood and mucus on the brush, meaning too few cells from the cervix are removed.

Can I have cervical screening when I am pregnant?

If you are due your routine cervical screening test and you are pregnant, this should be deferred until after your baby is born. Usually it is advisable to wait until you are at least 6 weeks postnatal. This gives the cervix a chance to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Tests performed earlier are more likely to be inadequate.

I have had a hysterectomy – do I need to have a cervical screening test?

This depends on the type of hysterectomy, and why it was done. Your doctor will advise you on this. In general, if you have a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) for a reason not due to cancer, then you no longer need cervical screening tests. Some types of hysterectomy leave the cervix (called subtotal hysterectomy), and some are done to remove a cancer. In these situations, a test of the cells of the remaining cervix, or of the top of the vagina (called the vault), may still be advised.

What is HPV?

Human papilloma viruses are known as HPV. They can affect the skin and the moist membranes that line parts of the body, including the cervix. There are more than 100 different types of human papilloma virus and each type has a different number. Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, particularly types 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45. They are called high risk types. Almost all women with cervical cancer have at least one of these types of HPV in the cells of their cervix.

Of the different types of HPV, types 16 and 18 cause about 7 out of 10 (70%) cancers of the cervix. The other types cause most of the remaining 30% of cervical cancers.

Do remember that most women with high risk HPV don’t develop cervical cancer. Remember that regular cervical screening will pick up abnormal cervical cells before they become cancerous.
Our gynecologists are able to provide HPV tests here at the centre.

Do you offer the HPV vaccination?

Yes we do – The HPV vaccine is most effective if it’s given a few years before a girl becomes sexually active, so it’s given to girls between the ages of 12 and 13. It can however be given outside of this age range if women are HPV negative. It can also be given to men.

• Gardasil – which provides protection against cervical cancer and genital warts

The Gardasil vaccine provides protection against most but not all the types of HPV that are known to cause cervical cancer. If you have been vaccinated for HPV you will still need to attend your future cervical screening appointments.

Did you know it only takes 5 minutes to take the test. Speak to us and book an appointment today.

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