A cervical cancer screening test is available to women between the ages of 25 and 64. Instead of detecting cervical cancer directly, it looks for harmful alterations in the cells lining your cervix as well as the presence of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which typically goes unnoticed and presents no symptoms. Although there is no cure for HPV, your body will generally get rid of it in two years. But in certain people, it can result in genital warts and aberrant cells that occasionally turn cancerous.
Cervical screening is a procedure used to assess the health of your cervix as well as look for precancerous and cancerous alterations like HPV.
The importance of cervical screening…
Cervical cancer is preventable. By making sure that you regularly attend your cervical screening, precancerous cells can be detected and removed before they develop into cancer. This test saves 2,000 lives annually in the UK alone!!
When to have a smear test:
Women between the ages of 25 and 64 should routinely have a cervical screening, whether or not they are sexually active. A cervical screening should be performed every three years for women ages 25 to 49 and every five years for those ages 50 to 64.
What happens at your smear test:
It's ideal to dress comfortably the day of your appointment so you can undress quickly. A female nurse or doctor often conducts the screening, which lasts only a few minutes. You will be escorted to an examination bed where you must lie on your back with a paper sheet covering yourself after you are given privacy to undress.
The smear test consists of five steps:
The nurse or doctor will ask you to bend your legs, and they will then carefully insert a lubricated plastic speculum into your vagina. Although it might feel a little uneasy, you can really benefit if you calm down by taking deep, even breaths in and out. To clearly observe your cervix, the nurse will delicately open the speculum and enlarge your vagina. The nurse or doctor will extract a tiny sample of cells from the neck of your cervix using a soft, long, thin brush. Once the sample has been collected, the nurse will gently close the speculum and remove it, the test is then complete and you can get dressed and leave.
Your results explained:
It can take up to two weeks for your cervical screening results to arrive by mail. Four outcomes are typically possible.
Negative outcome: You tested negative for HPV and no abnormal alterations were discovered in the cells of your cervix. In three years, you'll be invited back for another routine cervical screening (unless you are aged over 50, then it will be five years).
Uncertain outcome - This outcome is noted for a number of reasons. During the screening, not enough cells were occasionally collected. It's possible that the results were murky because you were on your period or sick. To have the test redone, you will be required to schedule an appointment.
Mixed result - No abnormal changes were found in the cells of your cervix and you tested positive for HPV. You will be invited to have another cervical screening in one year.
Positive result - Abnormal changes were found in the cells of your cervix and you tested positive for HPV. This does not definitively mean that you have cancer but you will need further tests and/or treatment.
How to proceed if your outcomes are unusual:
The discovery of certain abnormal cells during your cervical screening can be shocking. But it's crucial to keep in mind that this does not necessarily indicate that you have cancer. If you are experiencing worry or anxiety, speak with your doctor or the practice nurse. You may have anxiety while awaiting additional tests if you need to get them. It's crucial to keep in mind that most women whose test results are followed up on do not go on to acquire cervical cancer. If further tests confirm the presence of precancerous cells, you will have a colposcopy — a procedure that takes a closer look at your cervix and may involve a biopsy or treatment to remove precancerous cells.
While the majority of women would tell you that getting a cervical screening is not the most pleasant experience ever, keep in mind that in exchange for a few minutes of discomfort every few years, you are given the assurance that your risk of ever developing cervical cancer has been significantly reduced.
With an EK health kiosk in the waiting area of a GP practice, female patients can be given a reminder that their cervical smear test is due and offered an appointment or advised to speak with practice staff to arrange it.
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