Cervical Screening

Messages to other women

Many of the women we interviewed who were diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells encouraged other women who were, or had been, sexually active to have cervical screening on a regular basis.

The NHS Screening Programme in England offers free cervical screening to women aged between 25-64 years on a 3 or 5 yearly basis, depending on their age. There is no evidence that women should be called up for screening before the age of 25. Cervical screening below the age of 25 can do more harm than good as it can lead to unnecessary and harmful investigations and treatments. The risk of cancerous changes are very low in this age group and an abnormal test result is often due to developmental changes rather than other reasons. Occasionally cervical screening is done when women under twenty are seen by a health professional for other reasons such as bleeding after sex.

Women aged 65 and over who have a history of regular normal test results are also at low risk of abnormal cell changes.

Women aged 25-64 years who prefer to have more frequent screening, can pay to have yearly tests taken at a private organisation, such as the Marie Stopes Clinic.

Several women wanted to encourage young women in their twenties to attend for screening.

Another woman had been discouraged from attending for screening because she did not want to be seen by a male doctor. She encouraged others who felt the same way to voice their concerns and ask to be seen by a female doctor or nurse rather than avoid having tests.

Further tests and treatment
Women who had been diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells encouraged others not to be afraid to go for tests or treatment. Several stressed that, in their experience, abnormal cervical cells can be treated, treatments are usually straightforward and effective and if cervical abnormalities are diagnosed early, any treatment needed is likely to be less severe.

Information
Several encouraged others to ask their doctors questions, to not be afraid or embarrassed about asking for information to be repeated if they did not fully understand it, and to make sure they got as much information as they needed.

Others stressed that abnormal cervical cells were more common than many women may realise and encouraged others to talk to their friends or family about their fears.

A few advised others not to worry until they knew if they had anything to worry about.

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2015.

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