Cervical abnormalities: CIN3 and CGIN

Views on cervical screening

Cervical screening is the best way to detect changes to the cervix before cervical cancer develops. This is one of the few cancers that is preventable because abnormal cell changes can be picked up before they have a chance to develop into cancer. On the NHS in England, women between the ages of 25 and 64 are routinely invited for a cervical screening test. The NHS Cervical Screening Programme offers screening at different intervals depending on age' women between 25 and 49 are screened 3-yearly and those between 50 and 64 are screened 5-yearly. The age that screening starts and finishes varies between the different countries of the UK. If they wish, women can pay to have more regular cervical screening at Marie Stopes family planning clinics and other private clinics.

The women we interviewed said they were glad they’d gone for cervical screening when they had because their abnormalities might have progressed if they hadn’t. Although some women had always gone for screening when invited, others said they’d missed appointments in the past but would always attend now. They advised other women to attend and stressed the importance of having a cervical screening test (smear), several noting how quick the procedure was. Some also stressed that it was important not to be put off having a cervical screening test just because it was unpleasant. A few women said it is much better to have cervical screening and try and prevent any abnormality from progressing because treatment for abnormalities could be more difficult than a cervical screening test.

Many of the women we talked to said it was important to go for cervical screening because, if there were any problems, these would be detected and treated early.

Until they were diagnosed with CIN3 / CGIN, many of the women we interviewed said they were unsure of what cervical screening could find. Several wrongly thought it was a test to find cancer, rather than one to screen for any abnormal changes and so prevent cancer developing. Most had never heard of CIN or CGIN before and felt that there should be more about these conditions in the media. Several women said that, although media coverage of reality TV star Jade Goody’s experience had raised awareness of cervical cancer, most people still did not know about CIN. Since their own experience, many women had encouraged their friends and family to attend for cervical screening. For some, telling other women about their experience was also a way of raising awareness of CIN3 and cervical screening.

Some of the women we spoke to thought the age at which cervical screening starts in England should be lowered. A few had had cervical screening tests (smears) before the age of 25 because they’d had other gynaecological problems such as endometriosis, because they’d had children or been on the pill. Sam was diagnosed with CIN3 at the age of 21 and felt that cervical screening should start at around the age of 16.

Jane advocated cervical screening but said she would like the age limit increased beyond the age of 65.

Marjory, who was 64 at the time of interview, said her last cervical screening test (smear) was so painful she would not be attending again. Sometime after the interview, though, she told us that she’d recently had another cervical screening test (smear) and the result was normal.

Some of the women we talked to stressed the importance of attending colposcopy and treatment appointments if abnormalities had been found. Others encouraged women to attend all of their follow-up appointments (see ‘Follow-up care). Most felt reassured by having cervical screening tests (smears) at follow-up, several saying they would be wary of being screened less frequently. Katie said that, although she would attend her follow-up appointments, she understood why women often ignored their invitations for cervical screening.

Pat, who was diagnosed with CIN3 in 1993, said she'd been wary of cervical screening at the time because there’d been negative publicity about it. Her cervical screening test results had also, initially, been mixed up with someone who had the same name. She felt that the service had greatly improved since then, and encouraged women to attend for screening when invited.

Maria said that, because cervical screening had not picked up her abnormality, she feels more reassured by having both a cervical screening test (smear) and visual examination.

Last reviewed May 2014.
Last updated May 2014.

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