A cervical smear screening is a routine preventive screening for women that detect cervical cell changes early before developing to a more severe condition. Regular cervical smear screening has helped save many women from having cervical cancer, a life-threatening condition. The screening detects abnormal cells, which the doctor can remove before they turn cancerous.
The cervix is a part of the female reproductive system situated at the uterus entrance, close to the end of the vagina. Cervical cancer usually results from uncontrollable cell growth in the cervix, which causes a tumour.
Doctors and health professionals advise women to undergo routine cervical screening irrespective of their sexual history or orientation. Getting the screening does not depend on whether you have gotten the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or not.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus, shortened as HPV is a group of related viruses common among sexually active persons. The virus can be transmitted through direct sexual contact like vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Most cases of cervical cancer result from certain HPV infection.
There are several strains of HPV, over a hundred, but 14 strains of the virus may result in cervical cancer. Most people get infected with HPV but remain unaware because the virus does not always show symptoms. Even without symptoms, people can still transmit the virus, which is one of the causes of increased HPV infections.
In most cases, the HPV infection clears off without treatment. About 90% of those who contract HPV recover from the infection after about 1 – 2 without receiving treatment. In a few cases, the virus remains in the body for a longer period, increasing the risk of cervical cancer.
HPV remains in the body of women with a normal immune system for about 15 – 20 years before causing cervical cancer, so it is important to visit your doctor for regular cervical smear screening to prevent abnormal cells from becoming cancerous.
Things to consider before booking your appointment
Your doctor or nurse can perform your regular cervical smear screening, but you should consider the following before you book an appointment for the screening.
- Menstrual cycle
It is best to get your cervical smear screening mid-cycle. Most women have their mid-cycle about two weeks from the onset of their period. If you do not have your periods, you can book the appointment for your cervical screening.
Health professionals advise women to have cervical screening three months after childbirth. During your previous screening, if you had abnormal cells, get your smear test or colposcopy as scheduled even with pregnancy.
- Miscarriage and abortion
You can get a cervical smear screening at least 12 weeks after a miscarriage or abortion.
- Pelvic infection
Cervical screening during a pelvic infection is not advisable, and you shouldn’t undergo cervical screening if you are receiving treatment for a pelvic infection.
During cervical smear screening
A cervical screening appointment usually lasts for about 15- 30 minutes, but the test takes a shorter time.
When you get to the clinic, the doctor or nurse will usher you into a room then ask questions about your general health history, before explaining the screening procedure to you. After the consultation, you will get ready for the screening. You may be asked to undress from your waist down then lie with your back on an exam table,
Yournurse or doctor will insert a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina to open it, then apply a water-based lubricant. The speculum helps the doctor see your cervix,which may be slightly discomforting for some women, but not painful.
Yournurse or doctor will insert a small brush in your cervix and rotate it clockwise a couple of times to get your cervical cells. You may feel uncomfortable at this point, and if the discomfort is intense, you should tell the doctor or nurse. After the screening, you may experience light bleeding, but you can go about your regular activities.
How to improve your cervical screening experience
The thought of undergoing cervical smear screening for most women is scary and some young women put off their screening because they think it is painful and embarrassing. Most women feel self-conscious about undergoing cervical screening, others feel vulnerable and out of control before the screening.
If you want to undergo cervical screening, these tips should help you feel comfortable.
- Note that your consultation is confidential, and you can feel free to talk to the nurse or doctor about your fears and doubts.
- You are free to contact the clinic before the screening to share your concerns and ask questions about your cervical smear screening.
- You can book a longer appointment to ensure you take your time to feel at ease before your screening.
- Your family member or friend may be present during your appointment if it makes you feel comfortable.
- You can take any over-the-counter pain medication like paracetamol ibuprofen, but this may not be necessary.
- If you feel more comfortable with a particular doctor or nurse, ensure you request the person to perform the screening.
After cervical smear screening
After the screening, the doctor or nurse will send your cell sample to the lab for analysis. It takes about five working days to get the screening result. You may opt to receive your result via a phone call or email.
- Normal result
A normal result means that you do not have abnormal cells or HPV in your cervix.
- Abnormal result
An abnormal result means any of the following.
- You are HPV positive but have no abnormal cervical cells. Your doctor will recommend you repeat the cervical screening in this case after about 6 – 12 months to check if the HPV infection has cleared off.
- You are HPV positive and have abnormal cells in your cervix. Your doctor may request you undergo a colposcopy. The gynaecologist will take a closer look at your cervix to the extent of the cell change in your cervix.
You can get your private smear test at Gynaecology Clinic or book an appointment with our experienced gynaecologist for your colposcopy. Simply call us today on 020 7183 0435 to schedule the appointment.