Cervical screening: 4 common myths debunked
This week is cervical screening awareness week – an important annual event which runs from June 10-16 to highlight the importance of regular cervical screening for women’s health.
This year, Kerfoot is highlighting and debunking the myths associated with the procedure to provide reassurance around the fear that so many women seem to have with their cervical screening test.
Firstly, what is a cervical screening test?
While a HPV vaccination is one of the best ways to protect from cervical cancer, cervical screening is another common process in healthcare. It looks for abnormal cell changes in your cervix which, if left untreated, could turn into cancer. Early detection and treatment of abnormal cells can prevent 75 per cent of cancers developing, saving thousands of lives a year.
The screening test is offered to women aged between 25 and 49 every three years, and every five years for those between 50 and 64. Women will usually stop being invited for screening once they turn 65, because after this point it’s very unlikely that they’ll develop cervical cancer. After turning 65, women will only be invited again if one of their last two tests showed abnormalities. Women 65 or older who have never been for cervical screening, or have not had cervical screening since the age of 50 can request a test from their GP.
The worrying thing is, the number of eligible women being adequately screened across the country has been in decline for four consecutive years. In fact, the percentage of women taking part in cervical screening in Yorkshire especially has dropped by almost 6% in the past eight years.
Do you have cervical screening test fear? We address the common misconceptions about the process, previously known as smear tests, to keep you in the know about the importance of cervical screening:
Cervical screening tests are painful
Cervical screening can be a bit uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t be painful. If you do find it painful or have had a bad experience tell your nurse or doctor about your concerns and they can help make the test as comfortable as possible. Nurses will do everything they can to help – whether that be using a smaller speculum, putting you in a different position, or letting you know you can bring someone with you for support.
Your nurse or doctor is a professional who will have performed hundreds, even thousands, of cervical screen tests before. It’s important to remember that and try not to let embarrassment stop you from going for your appointment.
An abnormal result = cancer
Not at all. Cervical screening tests aren’t a test for cancer – they are a test that can prevent cancer. After a test, the result will be one of three: normal, inadequate or abnormal. There’s nothing to worry about if you do have abnormal results. It’s common and does not mean cancer. It means that your cervical screening test has done its job and picked up an abnormality before it becomes anything serious.
You don’t need a cervical screening test if you’ve had the HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine protects against 70 per cent of cervical cancers. If you’ve had the vaccine, you will have a high degree of protection against cervical cancer however it doesn’t completely protect you. This is why cervical screening tests are still important.
Kerfoot is committed to workplace health and wellbeing and is proud to be a Yorkshire Cancer Research charitable partner. This is why we’re highlighting the importance of regular cervical screening. As a Yorkshire company, we have a responsibility to support our employees to promote a healthier lifestyle and in turn help create a cancer aware workforce who can share their knowledge with family, friends and in the local community.
Screening remains an important tool in the prevention of cervical cancer. More than 200 women in Yorkshire are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year – so if you think you’ve missed an appointment, please talk to your doctor or nurse. It could save your life!
For further information about cervical screening, please visit https://yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk/how-we-help/wise-up-to-cancer. If you have any concerns about screening, please talk to your doctor or practice nurse.