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A Date for Your Diary: Your Cervical Screening

Let's face it; no one likes receiving a letter to say their cervical screening is due - whether you're a first-timer or an old pro at visiting the nurse for your semi-regular appointment. But it's vital you don't ignore the letter - and instead make a note in your diary to get booked in.

Recently, I attended mine - around my fourth, since I'm now in my mid-30s - and it turned out that, this time, I was even more thankful than usual, for the lovely nurses who work so hard to check that we women are healthy. You see, a few weeks following the appointment I received a letter to say that something might be amiss. A few abnormal cells had been detected.

I broke down in tears on the spot. "I have cancer" was my first thought, when of course, if the cells are caught early, a woman's risk of getting cervical cancer is much lower than it would be if we didn't go for our appointment at all.

So, I was booked in for a colopscopy (a further procedure at the hospital), which saw a lovely team of nurses have a closer look at what was going on. Yes, the cells were still there, but I was advised (rather, reassuringly) that they'd probably go away on their own and therefore there was nothing to worry about. Imagine, then, if I'd not gone to my initial screening - and those cells had time to develop into something.

Here's why prevention is key:

Prevention

Screening for cervical cancer won’t serve as treatment if abnormal cells are found, but it can help lower your chances of getting this form of cancer.

Cervical cancer, as well as other types of cancer, are best treated if caught in their earlier stages – incentive to get regular screenings, so you don’t potentially catch a tumour in its later stages.

You should get a pap smear typically beginning at age 25.  From then until age 49, according to the NHS, it’s recommended to get a pap smear every three years to ensure nothing slips under the radar. Women aged 50 to 64 should continue getting regular pap smears, though having them every five years is acceptable. Cervical screening is necessary for women over 65, only if they have recently had abnormal tests.

There's really no need to be fearful about your screening; it's there to protect you, after all.

Protection

Some women are more at risk of cervical cancer than others. There are several factors that increase your risk, which include HIV, chlamydia, family history of cervical cancer, a history of smoking, being overweight, long-term use of birth control pills or IUD, and having many full-term pregnancies. Those with the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) virus are also vulnerable to getting cancer of the cervix

Fortunately, according to the NHS, since the NHS Cervical Screening Programme began in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% with each year. No matter what your risk factors are, you can still reduce your chances of getting cervical cancer by ensuring you attend your screening.

Peace of Mind

It should go without saying that cancer of any kind is devastating; tumours don’t discriminate. People in the UK will still remember the shock of Big Brother star, Jade Goody, losing her battle to cervical cancer in 2009. According to the NHS, about 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed yearly in the UK, and Cancer Research UK states that 850 of those cases result in death. The survival rate for this form of cancer is 63%.

These statistics may seem grim, but here’s a very uplifting stat for you: 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable. Yes, it’s that easy to prevent this form of cancer by ensuring your cervix is regularly screened. Whatever your misconceptions about the procedure are – that it hurts, that it’s embarrassing, that it’s useless – please throw them away for the sake of your health and your peace of mind.

Have we answered all your questions about cervical cancer screening? Anything else you want to know? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclaimer: If you are allergic to any of the ingredients listed in the products mentioned, do not consume them. Always check with your doctor before trying a new medication or regime, and if irritation or allergy occurs stop using the product or medication immediately. The tips listed in this article are meant to be suggestions and should not be substitutes for medical advice.

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