So you’ve had your 25th birthday and you have received your cervical screening offer in the post. You may be thinking, What even is it? What do I have to do? Why do I need one?
Don’t worry I’ve got you. From my experience of a cervical screening I’ve summarised all the information you may need.
The NHS Cervical Screening Helping You Decide Guide
What is a Cervical Screening?
The NHS define this a method of detecting abnormal cells within the cervix (the entrance of the womb from the vagina). This was previously known as the smear test.
There is a misconception that the screening tests for cancer. The cervical screening tests the health of the cervix and identifies abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are found, these may be removed to reduce the risk of the cells becoming cancerous.
If registered with a GP, young women are usually offered their first screening at age 25 by letter.
What happens during an appointment?
On arrival the nurse will confirm your personal details such as name and date of birth. The nurse may then ask about your menstrual cycle. Whether or not your periods are regular, any recent changes and so on.
The screening process will then be explained and you will be asked if you have any questions.
For the screening women are required to undress from the waist down. For those who may find this uncomfortable, a loose skirt may be worn.
A speculum is then inserted into the vagina to help see the cervix. A soft brush will then be entered to collect some cells for testing.
Overall the test lasts around 5 minutes. The results will be sent to you by post roughly 3 weeks later. There is no worry of remembering to call your GP for this information. Although this is recommended if you fail to receive a letter in the post.
Is it painful? Should I feel embarrassed?
(I know this is what you really came here to find out!).
The test should not be painful and you should let the nurse know if it is. Some may feel slight discomfort but this doesn’t last long.
Worryingly, reports found that 1 in 3 women miss their screening appointment. This was due to embarrassment around body shape and a lack of understanding about the importance of the test.
First of all, no-one should ever feel embarrassed about their body shape. If you need to show your body some love you should read: 8 Reasons Why We Should Appreciate Our Bodies. If you do feel embarrassment however, you can wear a lose skirt to help feel more comfortable as previously mentioned.
Some women may also feel nervous before the test. Tensing the body due to nerves can make the test more difficult to complete. To ease this issue, try some deep breathes or take someone along with you if this helps you.
Is the test important?
It is no health secret that prevention is better than treatment.
Research has found the cervical screening programme to be associated with a 67% reduction in stage 1A cancer and 95% reduction in stage three or cervical cancer. The programme has been argued to prevent 70% of cervical cancer deaths. To put this into context, without the screening an additional 1827 women would have died.
So it really is important that this 5 minute test is completed routinely, even if you feel fit & healthy.
It is important to remember that the information shared within this post is based off my own experience of having a cervical screening. For more information please see the NHS website.
If you would like more information about my own experience of the cervical screening then please do not hesitate to contact me here.