What is cervical cancer screening?

Reproductive health  •  17 December 2020  • 3 min read



A cervical smear test is a way to check up on the health of your cervix – the entrance to your womb (uterus), which is located at the top of your vagina.

Why is cervical cancer screening important?

This isn’t a test for cancer but can detect abnormal cells that could lead to serious problems like cervical cancer. Symptoms may not be experienced beforehand, until the condition is at an advanced stage.

Abnormal cells are not usually cancerous, especially if you have regular screenings. However, if abnormal cells are noticed at a screening they can be closely observed and/or treated to prevent cancer from developing. Regular screening has been proved to reduce the risk of advanced cancer by 90% on average for women aged 35-64.

How often should I be screened?

We recommend that women over the age of 25 get screened every 3 years until the age of 49, and then every 5 years until the age of 64.

Will I have to undress for the screening?

You will be asked to undress from the waist down. If you are wearing a full skirt or a dress with a full skirt you can lift the skirt up rather than take it off. We will provide something for you to cover yourself with while we perform the test, if you like.

Does it hurt to have a cervical screening test?

Some women find it momentarily uncomfortable, but it is a very quick procedure. The apprehension, along with embarrassment, puts some women off having a smear test. Try not to worry. Many women will tell you that they found it fine and that it’s worth a little discomfort for peace of mind. It is best to relax as much as possible by breathing slowly and deeply to ease any tension.

Can I have sex before the screening?

Some chemicals found in spermicide, lubricant, or barrier methods of contraception such as condoms, cervical caps and diaphragms could affect the test. Please refrain from having sex using these methods of birth control for 24-hours before the test. Sex with any other contraceptive method before the test will be fine.

What is a colposcopy?

This is an examination which looks closely at the cervix to identify where the abnormal cells are so they can be treated if necessary. A specialist will carry out this screening process using a colposcope, which is a bit like a microscope to give a magnified view. If necessary, a tiny sample of tissue will be taken and tested in more detail.

A cervical smear test is a way to check up on the health of your cervix – the entrance to your womb (uterus), which is located at the top of your vagina.



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