I was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer aged 24. I didn’t realise I was showing symptoms and simply put my weight gain, extreme fatigue and bloating down to burning the candle at both ends. I didn’t realise at the time but I had also missed a smear having moved house. By the time I was diagnosed November 2005, the cancer had already spread to the surrounding lymph nodes in my pelvis and my health was in big trouble. In this blog post, Alice Lawson from Better2know tells us the 10 important things we need to know to improve our awareness around our sexual health.
The NHS changed its screening policy in 2003, introducing a minimum age of 25 for women to qualify for routine smear tests.
Although women are expected to go to their screening, 1 in 5 women in the UK choose to ignore their routine test (BBC health) this is due to a number of factors, such as:
– Lack of Awareness
– Lack of time
– Fear of result
Despite there being reasons why women choose not to attend their regular test, it is vital that all women over the age of 25 attend their smear to help to prevent Cervical Cancers. Although the NHS requires you to be 25 to qualify for a smear test, that does not mean women under 25 should not get tested if they are worried. If you have:
- A family history of cervical cancer
- Or are sexually active and could be at risk of HPV ( Human Papilloma Virus )
Do not hesitate to pay for a smear test at a private clinic for that piece of mind. Early detection can potentially save a life.
What you should know
- Cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer in the neck of the womb and forms when certain strains of the HPV cause cells to mutate into pre-cancerous cells
- HPV infections are recognised as the cause of 99.7% of cervical cancers (RNC) which means it is important to get tested for HPV and have your regular smear tests.
- A smear test is not a test for cancer, but a test to look for any abnormalities which might eventually turn into cancerous cells.
- A smear test is used to check the health of the cells in a woman’s cervix, and if anything unusual is detected, that is when further action is to be taken.
- Since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year. (Cancer research)
- About 2,900 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK. This amounts to 2% of all cancer cases diagnosed in women. NHS
- Women who have had a subtotal hysterectomy still need to continue to have cervical smear tests ( NUS.GOV)
- Most women’s cervical screening results show that everything is normal, but for 1 in 20 women the test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix: (NUS.GOV)
- A smear test looks at the cells to see if any of them are showing any abnormalities. The HPV test is a different test that can be done at the same time but this test will detect the presence of any of the HPV virus types that are of concern.
- There is an effective vaccine against 4 of the most common types of HPV virus to help to protect you against HPV.
The best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer is to get regularly checked with a Pap smear and a test for HPV – not only will getting tested give you a piece of mind, but it can detect any problems early on, and potentially prevent you from developing cervical cancer.
Alice Lawson is a content writer for Better2know. Better2Know is the UK’s largest private provider of STD testing services. We have over 80 clinics nationwide providing confidential, fast and accurate results for your peace of mind’.
Have you had your smear lately? Tell me in the comments below if you’ve ever missed your smear and why.