Written by: Anne Marie Forgarty, RGN
Why is Cervical Screening important?
Cervical Cancer is a preventable disease in many cases, but early detection is vital.
It is important that women get tested, know the facts, and are educated on cervical cancer symptoms so that they can recognise them.
Being the most common cancer for women under 35, it is crucial women get their cervical screening test (smear test) when invited to by their clinic or GP practice.
It only takes approximately 5 minutes for the screening test that could save your life. It might be slightly uncomfortable for some, but others don’t feel anything at all.
Screening – what can you expect?
• A speculum will be gently placed into your vagina to hold it open so that the nurse can see your cervix.
• They’ll take a small sample of cells from your cervix using a soft brush.
• The nurse will remove the speculum. You can then get dressed.
• The sample will then be sent to a lab to be tested for HPV first. If HPV is found, the sample will also be checked for abnormal cells.
Cervical screening may check for:
• Human papillomavirus (HPV) – some types of HPV can lead to cell changes in your cervix and cancer.
• Abnormal cell changes in your cervix – left untreated, these could turn into cancer.
How can I book my smear test now?
If you have been invited to book, call your nurse or GP, and book your appointment. If you are unsure, please check with your GP.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer that I should look out for?
Everyone is different, and you may not have all the symptoms (or none in the early stage), but always contact your GP if you are concerned as early-stage cervical cancer often shows no signs; therefore, early detection is crucial, so your smear test is one you should always attend.
The main symptoms include:
• Bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse, or menopause.
• Pelvic pain – often lower back pain also.
• Changes to vaginal discharge.
• Painful intercourse.
Often these cancers show no symptoms until they have progressed to a late stage; screening is the only way you might discover it and get treatment. That’s why your cervical screening/smear test is so crucial.Make sure you have your test as soon as you can. If you would like some more reassurance check out our helpful don’t fear the smear PDF’s.
You can find out more about the cervix or the female reproductive system by reading our female reproductive system blog.