Cervical screening tests do not test for cancer, but are done to prevent it
Cervical screening can be a daunting prospect for some, and those with certain medical conditions may find the process more uncomfortable than others.
But for those to be screened, cancer charities and people living with endometriosis have offered their tips and advice for people concerned about their appointment.
The Cervical Screening Awareness Week ending Sunday 26th June has focused on highlighting the screening process.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What is cervical screening?
Cervical screening (a swab) checks the health of your cervix. It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test for cancer prevention.
Screening is carried out between the ages of 25 and 64, with letters being sent out inviting those eligible to make an appointment.
During the screening appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix, and the sample will then be tested for certain types of HPV that can cause changes in the cells in your cervix, called “high-risk” HPV types.
If these HPV types are not found, you do not need further testing.
If these types of HPV are found, the sample is then examined for changes in the cells in your cervix. These can then be treated before they can turn into cervical cancer.
You will receive your results by letter, usually around two weeks after your appointment, which will explain what happens next.
Cervical screening is intended for people without symptoms. So if you notice changes that are unusual for you, such as B. vaginal bleeding after sex, don’t wait for your next screening appointment, talk to your doctor about it instead.
What can I do if I’m worried about my cervical cancer screening appointment?
Karis Betts, Senior Health Information Manager at Cancer Research UK said: “Some people may find cervical screening uncomfortable or painful, but there are ways to make your appointment better for you.”
She suggests asking for a longer time slot when booking your appointment so you can discuss any concerns you may have with the nurse.
Ms Betts added: “Remember you are in control of your appointment. You can ask the nurse to stop at any time, get a different size speculum, or try to lie in a different position.”
For those going through menopause, she suggested talking to your doctor about brief hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can help relieve vaginal dryness and make the test more comfortable.
For people with learning disabilities taking a cervical screening test, cancer research has further advice, including guidance for carers and guardians.
The charity has lots of information about cervical exams that you may find helpful, including a blog with useful tips and a range of support services including:
- a free helpline on 0808 802 8000
- an online forum
- an online ask-the-expert service
What if I have endometriosis?
Although some find cervical screening with a speculum painful, the charity Endometriosis UK said if you have endometriosis – where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts growing in other places – the test may be more painful than normal.
Because “if you have endometriosis affecting your pelvis, it can lead to scarring and inflammation, which means inserting a speculum can cause pain by pulling or stretching the affected area, which can be in front of the cervix, to the side, or it can be behind it,” the charity said.
It is recommended for those who have endometriosis that they inform the nurse that they have the condition and that it may be painful for them so that the right steps can be taken to ease the experience.
The charity added: “People with endometriosis should not be discouraged from attending their cervical screening – the person doing the screening is there to help you and make it as comfortable as possible.”
Endometriosis UK recently took to Instagram to ask about people’s experiences. This is what endometriosis patients who have had cervical screening say:
- Explain that you have endometriosis, what it is, that you find the procedure painful, and that you should use a smaller speculum, more water, or gel
- Ask the nurse to walk you through the process and let her know your concerns before the test
- Ask for a longer appointment
- Ask if you can take someone with you
- Try lying on your side during the test
- Take a deep breath and ask the nurse to be as slow and gentle as possible
- Have a heating pad ready after the test
https://www.nationalworld.com/news/uk/cervical-screening-awareness-week-2022-smear-test-expert-3744533 Cervical screening: what to expect at an appointment