Cervical smear screening also called a smear test, is a preventive screening procedure that helps identify abnormal cells present in the cervix at an early stage, even before the cells elicit symptoms. Getting a routine private smear test has saved a lot of women from having cervical cancer because if abnormal cells are detected, the doctor will remove them before they become cancerous.
The cervix is a female reproductive organ situated on the neck of the womb. Cervical cancer usually results from abnormal cells in the cervix, growing uncontrollably to cause a tumour. Doctors advise women to get routine cervical screening, not minding their sexual orientation, whether or not they have received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and sexual history.
What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?
HPV is a group of viruses common in sexually active people. HPV is transmitted through direct sexual contact with an infected person, and skin-to-skin contact with the genital areas. Having anal, vagina, or oral sex with an infected person puts you at risk of contracting the virus.
Most cervical cancer results from HPV infection, and there are about 100 types of HPV, but only 14 types of the virus are linked to developing cervical cancer. Most other types of HPV do not cause any harm or show symptoms, so people who have them remain unaware, but they can still transfer the virus.
Most HPV infections clear off on their own within 1 – 2 years because about 90% of the virus is self-resolving. In some persons with cervical cancer-causing HPV, the virus can remain in their body for about 15 – 20 years before developing into cancerous cells, but attending routine cervical smear screening can prevent this.
Booking an appointment for cervical smear screening
You can book a cervical screening appointment with a doctor or a nurse, but before you book the appointment, you should consider the following.
- Menstrual cycle
Doctors advise that the best time for cervical screening is midcycle. Most women have their midcycle two weeks from the first day of their period, but if you no longer have periods, you get your screening at any time.
It is better to have your smear test three months after you give birth, but if your previous screening showed any abnormal cells, you should get a colposcopy or smear test as scheduled even if you are pregnant.
- Abortion and miscarriage
You can get a cervical screening at least 12 weeks after an abortion or miscarriage.
- Pelvic infection
If you have a pelvic infection, doctors advise, that you do not get a cervical smear screening.
During the appointment
A cervical screening appointment will last for about 15 – 30 minutes, but the test only takes a few minutes.
The nurse or doctor will invite you to a room, then ask you questions about your general health history and explain the implications of the test and the process itself.
Your doctor will excuse you, so you can get ready and lay down for the examination. The doctor or nurse will open your vagina with a speculum and a small amount of water-based lubricant to make the process easy. When your doctor or nurse places the speculum in the right position, he/she will gently open it to see the cervix. This may feel slightly uncomfortable but painless.
The doctor or nurse will rotate a small brush clockwise for a few times around your cervix to collect a small sample of your cervical cells. You should not feel any pain, but if at any point, you feel pain, tell the doctor or nurse immediately. After the smear test, you may experience light bleeding, but you can go home or about your normal daily activities.
Making your experience better
Most women may not feel comfortable about getting their smear test, so most of these women try to avoid the screening because of embarrassment, and fear of pain.
A survey showed that most women who attend regular cervical screening feel body-conscious, vulnerable, and uncoordinated before the screening.
These tips should make you feel more relaxed before your cervical smear screening.
- All consultations are confidential, so you can feel free to answer any question your doctor or nurse asks you before the screening.
- You can ask for a longer appointment to help ease the process.
- You can go to the clinic with a friend or family member for support.
- You may not need painkillers, but you can still get over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- You can ask for a specific doctor or nurse that makes you feel more comfortable.
After the appointment
Your doctor or nurse will send your cervical cell sample to the lab for analysis, and it takes about five days for your result to be ready. The doctor or nurse will send your result by email or call you depending on what you prefer.
This means that no HPV was found and you do not have abnormal cells in your cervix.
This could mean either of the following
- The result shows the presence of HPV with no abnormal cells. In this case, you will repeat the smear test in 6 – 12 months to check if the HPV has cleared off
- Presence of HPV with abnormal cell changes, which means that your doctor will advise you to undergo colposcopy and see a gynaecologist to examine your cervix in order to know the extent of the abnormal cells.
Get your private smear test at Gynaecologyclinic.com. Call us now on 020 7183 0435 to book an appointment for your cervical screening.