One in three women do not attend for cervical screening. Reasons for this can include fear or embarrassment, or difficulty finding the time or a convenient time to attend. Last year many organisations signed up to the ‘Time to Test’ campaign whereby flexibility for women to attend cervical screening appointments is prioritised.
For some women the smear result will show high risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is a relatively common infection in women who have been sexually active. Whilst your body is capable of clearing this infection itself, if it fails to do so after 24months, or if any of the cells of the cervical smear are abnormal (dyskaryosis) then it is important to attend for a colposcopy appointment.
At the colposcopy appointment a speculum is inserted, much like the one used during performing a cervical smear, and a doctor or nurse will take a closer look at your cervix using a type of microscope, called a colposcope. Often a small (<4mm) sample of the cervix is biopsied. This is a quick and relatively painless procedure. The biopsy will be sent to a laboratory and the result will either return as normal cervix, HPV infection, or cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN).
CIN 1 (low grade) can often clear itself and all that is required is a repeat smear in 12months’ time. CIN 2 can be managed with observation of a loop biopsy treatment, which can be performed in the clinic under local anaesthetic. CIN 3 (high grade) requires a loop biopsy. Any women having a loop biopsy will require a further cervical smear in 6 months to ensure that the HPV infection is cleared.
This month take time to recall when you last had your smear, and find the time to arrange an appointment, if required. A very useful resource is Jo’s Trust where you can get the facts out about this life-saving test www.jostrust.org.uk/cppw
Regular screening, early diagnosis and early treatment are key to cervical cancer prevention.
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