Smear tests, like so many other ‘routine’ checks and treatments, have been somewhat swept under the carpet over the past year. Of course, it’s understandable, given the wider context of a global pandemic, but should we take this to mean that smear tests don’t really matter?
Short answer: NO
Without wanting to resort to hyperbole, smear tests can quite literally save lives. Cervical cancer is practically symptomless in the early stages, which means by the time it is picked up it can often be too late.
Doctors recommend at least one smear test every three years for women aged between 25 and 49. This means that any abnormalities can be detected before you start to show symptoms, so treatment can commence early.
How common is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and is most common among sexually active women aged between 25 and 49. If diagnosed early, it is also one of the most treatable cancers. This is why regular smear tests are so important.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
As mentioned above, in the very early stages there are no symptoms. But as the cancer gets more advanced, symptoms can include irregular bleeding, often before or after intercourse. Also, pain during intercourse, vaginal discharge and pelvic pain.
All these symptoms can also be linked to a number of other conditions, so screening is vital to rule out cervical cancer. Screening within a gynaecology-specific environment will speed up the process of diagnosing the root cause.
What causes cervical cancer?
In 99% of cases, cervical cancer is linked to infection with HPV, an extremely common sexually transmitted disease.
Can I get a smear test during lockdown?
Officially, smear tests should still be happening during lockdown. But the reality is that within the NHS, routine screening tests are being subjected to delays and cancellations.
You can, however, book to have a smear test performed privately. Here at Surescan, we offer a combined smear test and HPV screening, to provide added peace of mind.
We are also a specialist centre for women’s health and fertility issues. If you are seeking a smear test because you are experiencing symptoms associated with cancer of the cervix, we are able to investigate other causes of your symptoms. We can hopefully come up with a diagnosis that can offer you some relief.