Cervical Screening is vitally important for all women for early detection of possible cancer.
The cervical screen is also known as a ‘smear’ test, and previously ‘PAP’ test. Cervical screening is a method of detecting abnormal cells in the neck of the womb (or cervix). These cells may return to normal or they may develop into pre-cancerous cells. The development of pre-cancerous cells can be prevented by identifying and treating abnormal cells identified by the smear test.
Why is this important?
Cervical cancer does not usually have any symptoms until it is advanced. The Cervical Screening programme aims to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer by detecting abnormal cells early.
Who does it affect?
All women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years, or more frequently if an abnormality is detected.
Some women choose to have the Pap smear test more often (e.g. annually) and will need to make separate arrangements to facilitate this. This is sometimes performed as part of an annual ‘well-woman’ health check.
Women can develop cervical cancer at any age, though it’s more common amongst sexually active women aged between 30 and 45.
What does this mean for me?
You should make an appointment to have the smear test and ensure you keep it up regularly to keep your peace of mind.
You should not be tested during your period, so try to make your appointment for one week after your last bleed. You may be asked to delay your screen if you are pregnant or have had a baby recently, as it can be harder to interpret the results of the test.
You will be asked to undress from the waist down and will be given a towel to cover yourself with. The clinician will use a plastic instrument called a speculum to gently open your vagina, then will use a small soft brush to sweep around the cervix. This takes a couple of minutes and may feel just a little uncomfortable.
Most women receive a normal result. You will be recalled for another routine test in three or five years if the result is normal, depending on your age.
Less than 7% of women receive an abnormal result. This may mean that you need to have further tests to find out more, and have more regular screens in the future.
Appointments for the Smear Test/Cervical Screening
Mr Philippe de Rosnay is a private gynaecologist based in West London. Patients can book in with ease to arrange an appointment by contacting his team directly at any of his clinic locations across West London.