There are 9 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every day in the UK, and the highest risk group is women aged 25-29. The sooner cervical cancer can be detected, the higher the chances of successful treatment and recovery. Attending regular smear-tests is important if you fall into this high-risk group, however, should be also be maintained for women up until the age of 64. Some women may choose to have more frequent cervical smear screening or outside of the NHS cervical smear programme age range.
What is a smear test?
The purpose of a smear test, which is also known as cervical screening or pap smear in the States, is to detect any irregular changes that occurred at a cell level inside your cervix, right at the entrance of your womb. The abnormal cells are usually a result of the HPV virus, or Human Papillomavirus, which comes in over 100 different types. If left untreated, those changes can turn into cervical cancer. However, once you identify those changes, your doctor will be able to recommend a treatment to prevent cancer from developing.
Why do I need to have a smear test?
As one of the most common types of cancer amongst women, cervical cancer often lies dormant and many women do not realise that they have it. It is important to get tested early in order to be able to have an effective treatment. This is why we recommend that even without noticing any symptoms, you should have a smear test to be fully cautious. However, if you do notice worrying symptoms, such as irregular bleeding between period cycles or right after intercourse, any abnormal discharges and pain, you should see your GP as soon as possible. To find out more about symptoms that signal cervical cancer, head over here.
As the NHS programme is only for testing every 3 years between the ages of 25 and 64. If you are registered with a GP, you should be invited to have a test. Usually, the smear tests can also be performed at a sexual clinic or a private one. Many women choose to go to a private clinic for a smear test because they are looking for annual checks.
Can I get a test if I am under 25?
Women under 25 are not going eligible for the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. Smear tests are not as effective in women younger than 25 and this is due to the fluctuations that occur in the cells within your cervix but they usually go away by the age of 25. Studies showed that only 2 in 100 women under the age of 25 are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
However, if you do decide to have a smear test and you are under the age of 25, there are a couple more consideration to be taken into account.
✓ The chances of having cervical cancer are low if you are a virgin.
If you had previously had sex but you’re not active at the moment, you should still consider having a smear test.
✓ For ladies who had a hysterectomy but didn’t have your cervix removed you might want to have a test. Ask your GP for more information as you might need to have a different test ( also called a vault smear)
✓ You need to be at least 18 of age.
Having a smear test during a pregnancy
Having a smear test during your pregnancy is not ideal. If you had previously had a test before and the results were normal, it is advisable to wait until your baby is born. Always check with your GP before deciding on any course of action. If the results you had before showed abnormalities, then you might be asked to further perform a series of tests, such as a colposcopy. However, most often you will be asked to wait until you’ve given birth.
What happens during a smear test?
A consultation includes an initial consultation with our GPs and the smear test. The entire process should take 10 minutes but the actual smear test is a quick procedure that lasts around 5 minutes. Often seen as an uncomfortable process, our specialists will try to ease your concerns as much as possible. Once the verbal consultation is done, you will be invited to take off your clothes from the waist and lie down. The doctor will use a speculum, an instrument made of plastic or metal, which is slowly inserted into a vagina to open it so that the cervix could be seen. Try to remain as calm as you can, as that will make the procedure easier for you. A small sample of your cervix cells will then be collected with the help of a small brush and the sample is further going to be sent to the laboratory for testing. The sample is going to be further placed under a microscope where specialists will analyse the results.
If the results indicate borderline or mildly abnormal, we will further perform the HPV test which determines if you need extra tests.
After performing the test you should carry on with your daily tasks as usual. In some cases, patients have reported small bleedings but they shouldn’t concern you. However if the bleeding is persistent or you are experiencing severe pain, contact the clinic right away.
Who performs the smear test?
Our specialist doctors will make it as comfortable for you as possible. We understand how nerve-wracking it is to go through a situation like this. Our friendly GPs and nurses will explain everything to you so that you will feel relaxed throughout the process. It is often recommended you bring a family member or a close friend with you so that you will feel less stress.
Preparing for your treatment
Before having the test done, our friendly GPs will have a conversation with you, a time during which you will be asked about previous tests that you have carried out, such as blood tests, past diagnostics, scans and any additional medical symptoms and concerns that you might have.
✔ It is also advised you perform the smear test when you are not on your period. The recommended time is anywhere near the middle of your cycle. (2 weeks after the start of your last period)
✔ We recommend that 24 hours before the smear test, you should not have any intercourse as any chemicals present in the spermicide, lubrication or condoms could negatively impact on the results of the test.
✔ If you had treatment for any infections, such as vaginal pessaries, please wait at least one week after finishing the treatment before performing a smear test.
Getting your smear tests results.
The results will be available in a period of 5 days and they will be sent to your home address. 9 out of 10 smear test results come out as normal, which means there is nothing you have to worry about. If the results are normal, you will have to only repeat the test in 3 years.
Sometimes the results can also come out as inadequate and this happens when the sample has been composed of a small number of cell. It can also occur when the cells couldn’t have been observed clearly. This is often the cause of infection which means you will have to repeat the test in three more months.
Abnormal results are not specifically a sign of cervical cancer. They indicate that there are changes to the cells within your cervix. This is often known as dyskaryosis and usually, these changes will go away. However, in some women, these changes will turn into cervical cancer if left untreated. The outcome depends on the level of abnormality of your cells.
Borderline or Mild Results
Borderline or mild changes indicate that we will perform a second test that is going to look for HPV or high-risk human papillomavirus. If we identify any traces of the HPV virus, we will further invite you for a test called colposcopy in order to have a closer look at your cervix. If there aren’t any high-risk HPV traces in the test, then you only have a low chance of developing cervical cancer. This means you can continue carrying out regular smear tests.
Moderate or severe Results
Moderate or severe changes indicate that the cells within your cervix will not go back to normal on their own. This means you will be invited for colposcopy in order to have your cervix examined more closely. We will know then what treatment you might need.
Why should I go to a private smear test?
Smears tests are going to identify irregular changes before they could develop into something more serious and life-threatening and getting them done in time can be a live-saver. So what are the benefits of having a private smear test with Midland Health?-Although smear tests are offered every 3 years for women aged between 25-40 and 5 years for women aged 50-64, it is very important to be able to get tested when you fall outside these age groups. Even if you wish to be at ease by having a test done more often, it is important to have that option at hand.
-You can book an appointment for a smear test without the need for a referral from your GP.
-There is further support available for you in the event we detect high-risk HPV. A colposcopy will be further available for you.
-Our team of experienced GPs and nurses will offer you a tailored experience which will put your mind at ease. We understand that smear tests are often uncomfortable but with the support of our team, we will make the experience as pleasant as possible.
How much does a private smear test cost?
Our Cervical Smear test (to include the histology and HPV result) is priced at £225.
Frequent Questions we get
You can have a private smear test in the UK if you decide to have more often tests. As NHS only offers tests for women aged between 25-65 every 3 or 5 years, you might want to have sooner smear tests to ensure that everything is alright.
If you are under the age of 25, you can still have a private smear test, as the NHS programme doesn’t cover women younger than 25. You should be at least 18 years old to be able to book in a private smear test.
HPV testing is included in our smear test and this is because we can detect cervical cancer by looking at any existing high-risk human papillomavirus traces present in the sample. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and if there aren’t any traces of it in the sample we take, this means you are not at risk of developing it.
In case we do identify traces of the HPV, we will then analyse the cells to see if there are any abnormal cells. Sometimes, the cells do not present any irregular changes and this means you will be invited again next year for another test. In most cases, this is only an infection that clears up, however, if it doesn’t by the time you have been invited back, then you are at risk of developing abnormal cells. You will then need a colposcopy to get your cervix examined.
The treatments that are available are to either destroy the cells that present the abnormal changes or to remove the part of your cervix that contains the abnormal cells. After you had been invited for a colposcopy, the doctors will be able to examine your cervix after which, they will take a small biopsy. The biopsy will further point out if you need treatment to have the cells removed or destroyed. The most common one is called diathermy or LLETZ (large-loop excision of the transformation zone) where a doctor will remove the cells by using a wire loop with an electric current. Other treatments that are available are laser therapy, cryotherapy (freezing) and cold coagulation
At Midland Health we understand how difficult it can be for you to make that all-important step and book your private smear test. Our Midland Health GPs would be delighted to support you in this and take a full history and consultation to understand what symptoms you may have and what else might be causing this.
- Cervical Smear (to include the histology and HPV result) - £225
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