Cervical screening, or more commonly called smear tests, could prevent up to 83% of cervical cancer cases. Yet, the number of people who do the screening has decreased over the last two decades, and 1 out of 4 people avoid making appointments when they receive invitations. Here’s why you should go for your screening, and take care of your health!
Cervical cancer affects your cervix which is the opening to your womb from your vagina. Cervical screening is a health check done to prevent cervical cancer and is a really effective method to prevent a common type of cancer among people with vaginas. The screening also checks for HPV which can lead to cancer if it causes an infection. You can get HPV from any form of skin-to-skin contact of the genital area.
Anyone with with a cervix aged 25-64 that are registered with a GP will get regular invitations for cervical screening. When you receive an invitation, it’s important to respond to it and book an appointment as soon as possible.
What happens during the screening?
During the test, you will undress from the waist down and lay down. The nurse will use a small soft brush to take a sample of cells from your cervix. The test will then be sent to a laboratory where they will examine any abnormal cell activity.
The whole test usually does not take longer than five minutes. Some people do find it a bit uncomfortable, but it should not be painful, so tell your nurse if that is the case and they will be able to find ways to make it easier. You might experience some light bleeding after the cervical screening but that is normal and should stop within a few hours.
You will usually receive the results in about 2 weeks after the test.
Why should you attend the screening?
Many people are nervous or embarrassed about the test which makes them put if off. However, doing so risks your future health and wellbeing. In England, around 2,600 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day and around 690 women die from the disease every year. The screenings significantly decrease that risk so even if you do find the test a bit awkward, the long term benefits are more important!
Research has actually shown that 8 in 10 people that attended the screening felt positive about their experiences and that it was not as much of a big deal as they initially believed. We agree!
Here what some of our staff and students at the Students Union had to say about their experience...
- “I admit I was nervous and frightened on arrival as I went alone, so I would totally recommend taking someone you trust with you. Once in the room itself, the nurses and consultants couldn’t have been kinder or any more supportive! They explained what would happen, why it was necessary to undergo this procedure and was totally honest when they told me that it would be uncomfortable. But the nurses present held my hand and kept me talking the whole time so I was distracted which really helped. “
- “I had my first one about three weeks ago and it was the easiest 10 minutes ever! The nurse was really reassuring and lovely and chatted away as she did the test which put me at ease. I was worried that it would be invasive and painful and I felt really embarrassed about it, which is really silly as the nurses do these almost every day, they know what they are doing and do everything in their power to make it quick, painless and comfortable!"
- “I had my first one a few months ago along with some other tests, and it was really chill. I went to a gynecologist, and she really talked me through everything, answered my questions, and made me feel super comfortable. I think a lot of people feel it’ll be awkward, but to be honest, it’s just another health check-up, so it’s nothing to worry about. The whole thing felt really professional to me, and afterward, I felt super good, knowing I’m taking care of my health in the future!"
- “My experience was that it was quicker than I thought it was going to be and had no lingering effects and made me question why I was nervous beforehand. I have now had two tests returned as abnormal and whilst scary, it’s reassuring to know that if it’s something bad, it will have been caught early. If I never went for my smear it would be too late by the time they found it. Nothing that happens in a smear test is worse than the possibility of having cancer. Having cancer in a best-case scenario will be terrifying and painful, worse case it can lead to death..why risk that for 10 mins of your time?”
- “It is so simple and quick. Next time I go I will wear a dress or skirt so I don’t have to take my shoes off to take my trousers and knickers off (it’s just a bit of a faff!). Also, my cousin had a negative test back and had a procedure to remove the cancerous cells that the smear test had found, so this really does save peoples lives!”