This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention week providing awareness of the importance of cervical screening with the help of the #SmearforSmear campaign.
According to a recent survey carried out by the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, one in three women in the UK either delayed or didn’t attend their cervical screening.
The survey, of over 2000 women showed that embarrassment about body shape was the reason between a third and half of women did not attend. It also highlighted a lack of understanding about the importance of screening with a quarter saying they felt they didn’t need to go because they were healthy.
Cervical Screening is the method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. Being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells can be identified and, if necessary treated to stop cancer developing.
All women in the UK aged 25 to 49 are invited for a screening test every three years and those aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years.
The screening test usually takes around 5 minutes to carry out.
You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a couch, although you can remain fully dressed if you are wearing a loose skirt/dress.
The nurse or doctor will gently put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, this holds the walls of the vagina open so the cervix can be seen.
The nurse or doctor will then use a small soft brush to gently collect some cells from the surface of your cervix. Although the procedure can be a little uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be painful. However, if you do find it painful let the doctor or nurse know as they may be able to reduce your discomfort.
Once the sample is taken, the doctor or nurse will close the curtain allowing you to dress whilst they prepare the sample to be sent off to the laboratory.
The cell sample is then sent off to a laboratory for analysis and you should receive the result within 2 weeks.
Many women are nervous and embarrassed about the process of cervical screening, but there is no need to be, nurses and doctors carry out these tests every day.
You can minimise your worries when you book your appointment by requesting a female nurse or doctor to carry out the test. You are also welcome to bring a chaperone to your appointment too.