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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.

 

Laura advises women never to miss their cervical screening test.

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Laura advises women never to miss their cervical screening test.

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 37
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I’d say the first bit of advice is don’t ever miss your smears. Never miss your smears. And for what you have to go through for missing a smear is, a smear is nothing compared to, you know, the stress and the worry of the biopsies and the LLETZ. So I would advise people never to miss your smears. And not to worry because the biopsies, it sounds awful, biopsy, cone biopsy. It doesn’t hurt and I would say the hysterectomy is certainly not as bad as what I thought it was going to be and I am six weeks now. I feel fine. 
 

Paula believes we are lucky to have cervical screening freely available and encourages others to...

Paula believes we are lucky to have cervical screening freely available and encourages others to...

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 31
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And I think the other thing is that in this country, we are so lucky that we have the screening in place, and to people, I know there is people, who are scared to go to smear tests and they have not been screened for years and years and years and years and years. And I think people should just be very aware that we have got this screening in place. It’s nothing to worry about when you go and have the procedures done. So I just say to people go and get your smears and then if there is anything wrong then there is lots and lots of help out there for you. And the medical profession are great. And they know what they are doing and they can sort you out. If everything is caught early and in time, then you will be okay. 
 

Young women should overcome their embarrassment to have regular smear tests.

Young women should overcome their embarrassment to have regular smear tests.

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 26
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Yeah the reason why I had abnormal cells and they progressed is because I didn't go and have one and like a lot of girls they get very embarrassed and put it off when you don't realise how important it is that if you go. It's fast, it's quick and nothing to be embarrassed about, just do it and then if there is a problem then it gets fixed. Otherwise it will get worse and it is more scary.

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.

 

Don’t panic if you have an abnormal test result and make sure you go for another test.

Don’t panic if you have an abnormal test result and make sure you go for another test.

Age at interview: 41
Sex: Female
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The message is to definitely keep up with them. They’re available to you I think it’s every three years or something like that, and then five years after you’re 50. Definitely take the opportunity and go for the screening. If they write to you and tell you it’s abnormal or inadequate, don’t panic. Majority of the time it’s only something very minor. It might be an infection, it might be that they haven’t got enough sample on the slide or whatever. And to go back, definitely go back and get it rechecked. And make sure you get your result. If you don’t phone up, make sure that you, somehow that you, either you’ve had a letter or, if not, obviously do definitely phone up and get your results. You know, they’re your results, nobody else’s, and you need to know. 
 

Don’t be scared of the procedures and get as much factual information as you can.

Don’t be scared of the procedures and get as much factual information as you can.

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 31
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I think the main thing is just to remain as positive as possible about what’s happening and to just remain factual about what is happening to you and try and gather as much factual knowledge as you can, so you understand what is happening to you and why it is happening. And not to be scared of the procedures, because the procedures really aren’t a worry. Just to get through it. Talk to people wherever possible on different support networks if you can. And as I say just remain positive and just keep telling yourself, you know, that cervical cancer is actually quite rare and it is very unlikely that it is going to be anything more than pre cancerous changes.

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.

 

Encourages women to attend for cervical screening and check up's to prevent more severe problems...

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Encourages women to attend for cervical screening and check up's to prevent more severe problems...

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 22
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I suppose really women need to be encouraged, women that are visiting regularly are in a fairly secure position and if they do get treatment they're going to have minor treatment like the laser therapy which has got it's ups and downs but it's more or less, it's not very bad and therefore it's not very much to be scared of. But if people aren't coming because they're scared then that's going to put them in the position where they may be, if they need treatment they may need more severe treatment. So to actually know that if something has happened, if there is a problem that the cure for that problem is actually not very bad, it's probably not, initially it's almost the incentive to sort of say if you are checked regularly and if there is a problem then probably it would be quite something very simple to sort out and that you're being looked after and you're being monitored and the best is being done for you.

 

Get enough information to put your mind at ease and don’t be afraid to have treatment for...

Get enough information to put your mind at ease and don’t be afraid to have treatment for...

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 55
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Well first of all I would think if there are any women out there who still don't go for their regular smear tests then they really ought to do that, I mean that's, and I always have done but I mean I think its so important that people actually do that. I think you also need to have enough confidence to keep on asking questions so that you do get enough information to put your mind at ease and also to be confident in the fact that, I forget what the statistics are now but such a high proportion of people in the end have no on-going problem, but its just best to OK go along get the treatment done and be done with it. Its not a, its not a dangerous treatment, its not a particularly, as I say, OK its undignified but that's you know. It's worth it. Certainly don't be afraid of having the treatment.

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

 

Ask your doctor questions and don’t worry until you know you have something to worry about.

Ask your doctor questions and don’t worry until you know you have something to worry about.

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 34
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Again if you are that kind of person that does worry please don't unless you know for sure you do have something to worry about. So if you have any doubts please ask, ask all the questions there are and don't feel silly about asking any questions because after all doctors would prefer that you ask these questions because they can't be expected to give you all the answers there is possible because there wouldn't be enough time to cover all those questions you know it's something that you would have to point out to the doctor and I'm sure he'd be only too willing to try and you know put your mind at ease with whatever you have that's worrying you. But you know by worrying about something before you really know is just making you feel even worse inside because you really could be worrying for nothing. And just keep up with the regular appointments whether it is for a smear or the colposcopy clinic because you have more chance of keeping well and in good health than if you were by not keeping up with your regular appointments.

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Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2015.

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