If you’re a woman over the age of 25, you will most likely have been invited to take a cervical screening test, otherwise known as a smear test. I had my first smear test when I was 24, I was using the coil as one of my methods of contraception and I often found I had pain around my lower tummy, which sparked concern with my GP. Although nothing was found, I regularly keep up with my smear tests and have had 5 since I was 25. These tests are carried out to determine whether any abnormal cells are present in a woman’s cervix. Smear tests are quick and pain-free (although can be uncomfortable) using only a small brush to remove cells from the neck of the cervix, which is then examined to detect any changes. If irregular cells are left untreated or ignored, they could potentially develop into cervical cancer.
If anyone remembers reality TV star Jade Goody’s agonising campaign for smear tests and her fight against cervical cancer, you’ll know his important smear tests are for women. The tests are there to help prevent cervical cancer, rather than diagnose it. Cervical cancer does not develop suddenly, out of the blue, but cervical cells will change progressively over time. This is why the NHS insist on regular cervical screenings, at least once every three years for those aged 25-49 and at least once every 5 years for 50-64yo.
The tests are designed to identify any abnormality, which would typically be categorised as pre-cancerous, before any serious complications arise in the cervix. You may not know it, but more than 3000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer here in UK. According to cancer research, the peak age group for incidences of cervical cancer is in those age between 25 and 29 years of age. It is therefore shocking to learn that 150 young women think a cervical smear test isn’t needed or unnecessary. This goes with 26% of young women have concerns that it may cause pain or discomfort. It must be noted that I have had my fair share of smear tests, and each time it’s been a little unpleasant, more so after I had Emily, but just a few minutes is all it takes and if it means it can flag up any concerns, a few minutes a time is really nothing, is it?
Over the years there has been so much talk about cervical screening, it shocks me how many women refuse to trust our great health service and not sign themselves up, instead, leaving their cervical health to fate and taking the chance. It is vital that women should be educated on the importance of regular smear testing, and I agree with a number of women who believe these screenings should be available from a younger age. A few minutes is nothing. The overall procedure including a discussion with a nurse or doctor takes 5-10 minutes and once a sample is taken, it’s sent over to be processed and tested, with results sent to you in an sealed envelope a few weeks later. It doesn’t take much, if you can save your life.
To find out more about smear tests, visit this link.