National Screening Campaign
From 14th February 2022, NHS England has launched a national cervical screening campaign, known as 'Help us Help you.' The aim is to support those who are eligible (women aged 25-64 and people with a cervix) to respond to their cervical screening invitation letter, especially if they have missed their last screening.
Two women die every day from cervical cancer, yet it is one of the most preventable cancers. Around 2,700 women in England are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and it is the second most commonce cancer amongst women under the age of 35. Screening helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for a virus called high-risk HPV which causes nearly all cervical cancers. This is the best way to find out who is at higher risk of developing the cervical cell changes that over time could potentially lead to cervical cancer. Any cervical cell changes can be treated, preventing cervical cancer.
It has been estimated that in England cervical screening prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths and that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented.
How to Book
You will receive an invitation letter in the post when it's your time to book your cervical screening appointment. Once you have this, please call the surgery to book your appointment or if you have access to online services you can book your smear using this format. It is best to book an appointment for a time when you're not having your period (also try to avoid 2 days before or after your period) or if you have finished treatment for unusual vaginal discharge or pelvic infection.
What happens at your appointment
The cervical screening tests are carried out by a practice nurse and should take less than 5 minutes. Before the test, the nurse will explain the process and answer any questions you may have. The test could be a bit uncomfortable but you should not feel any pain.
During the cervical screening test the prcoedure will be carried out as such:
- You'll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You'll be given a sheet to put over you.
- The nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. Sometimes you may need to change position during the test.
- They'll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may be used.
- The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
- Using a soft brush, they'll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
- The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.
You will recieve your results by letter within a few weeks after the test has been carried out.
- What is a cervical screening test and how does it work?
The cervical screening programme is designed to pick up any precancerous changes to the cells of the cervix, it is not a diagnostic test for cancer. The nurse will take a sample of cells from your cervix. They will do this by inserting a speculum into the vagina and sweeping the cervix with a soft plastic brush to collect the cells. Your sample will then be sent off for testing. They will be looking to see if you have the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), if you have HPV your sample will be checked for any changes to the cells which could potentially lead to cervical cancer in the future. HPV is a common virus passed on through skin to skin sexual contact that causes over 99% of all cervical abnormalitise.
- I 'm not sexually active, do I still need screening?
The evidence shows that if a woman has never been sexually active than her risk of developing cervical cancer is very low indeed, however screening is still advisable as there is still an element of risk present.
- When am I due to go for my first cervical screening?
Cervical screening (also known as the smear test) begins at the age of 25 in the UK. Around the time of your 25th birthday you will recieve a letter inviting you to book your first screening appointment. You can then contact your the surgery to book in your test. You will be sent a letter to invite you for your screening every three years until the age of 50, and then you will receive an invite every five years until the age of 64
- I am in a same-sex relationship, do I need cervical screening?
The HPV virus which causes cervical cancer can be transmitted between women. Even women who have never had sex with a man can still be at risk of contracting the virus.
- I am transgender, do I still need to go for a cervical screening test?
If you have a cervix you will still be at risk of cervical cancer and therefore will need to attend your cervical screening appointment. If you have any questions or concerns please contact the surgery.
- I feel really embarrased about going for a cervical screening test
We know that people can feel embarrassed by attending for screening however all our Practice Nurses who have a lot of experience and will put you at ease. However if you have any questions or hesitations please ring the surgery to book a telephone appointment with the Practice Nurse.
- I'm worried that the test will hurt
Most people do not find the test painful however you may feel slightly uncomfortable. Try to relax by taking slow, deep breaths and if it is too painful please let the nurse know.
- I am worried about abnormal vaginal bleeding, can I have a cervical screening test?
Screening is for women without symptoms, so if you have symptoms please contact the surgery to arrange a telephone appointment with the Doctor. Symptoms are inclusive of vaginal bleeding, pain or discharge.
If you require any information in a different language please click here
Published: Feb 16, 2022
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