Why are cervical smear tests important?

Gillian Cooper
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When the brown envelope from the GP arrives to say that it’s time to arrange your routine smear test, many of us are tempted to leave it to one side and get round to it later. And then, with the busy lives most of us lead, we may not get round to it at all - in fact 1 in 4 women do not attend for screening.
But there’s a very good reason for arranging that appointment straight away – quite simply, smear tests save lives. NHS cervical screening alone saves as many as 5000 lives in the UK every year. Cervical cancer is one of the few types of cancer which is actually preventable. A smear test works by detecting abnormal cells which are likely to develop into cancer, which means they can be treated BEFORE they ever turn into cancer.

The NHS invites all women in the UK between the ages of 25 and 49 to have a cervical smear every 3 years and those aged 50 and over are asked to go along every 5 years.  The test itself is very straightforward and is carried out in the doctor’s surgery, often by the practice nurse.  It involves collecting a sample of cells from the cervix (neck of the womb) by gently inserting a speculum into the vagina and then using a tiny brush to sweep some cells off.  It only takes a few minutes and, although it may be a bit uncomfortable, the test is not painful.

The test results are usually sent by post a few weeks after the test.  Occasionally, too few cells have been collected and a second test may be required.  Where abnormal cells are detected, these are monitored and where necessary, can be removed under local anaesthetic by laser treatment.

You can find out more about the cervical smear test and the facts about Cervical cancer on Jo’s Cervical Cancer trust website. June 13th to 19th is Cervical Screening Awareness week and there are lots of ways to get involved and raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening – for example making Facebook and Twitter posts to promote the importance of screening, perhaps putting up posters in your workplace to share information about the test or even joining in with an organised walk or run. 

So the next time you are asked to go for a smear test, get your appointment sorted out as soon as you can.  And why not arrange a treat for yourself afterwards - maybe go for a drink with a friend and remind her about the importance of having a smear test?  It could make all the difference.

Brought to you by Union Insurance Services who provide Female Cancer Cover.

Sources: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/523344/Cervical_screening_booklet.pdf

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