As an illness that can take years to develop, often without signs or symptoms, cervical cancer poses one of the greatest health threats to women. A smear test is the best preventative step to take against cervical cancer, and here are the basics you need to know about the procedure.
What is a smear test?
A smear test is a screening process that detects changes and abnormalities in the cervix, which could indicate the presence of cancerous and pre-cancerous cells.
What is the process?
At your screening, the doctor or nurse will insert a speculum into your vagina to hold it open for examination. They will then use a soft brush to scrape some cells from the cervix to send to the laboratory for testing. Sometimes, the doctor or nurse will conduct a pelvic examination, whereby they will check your womb, ovaries and vagina.
Does it hurt?
You may feel some mild discomfort, but your smear test should not hurt. Some women do, however, lightly bleed after the examination.
How often should you get checked?
From the age of 25 years onwards, women should get screened on a regular basis; every three years is the recommended time period. From the age of 45 to 60, experts recommend a screening every five years.
How do you arrange a smear test?
If you have not received a letter of invitation, contact your GP or local clinic to see if you are on the register. Once you have received your letter of invitation, an appointment will be arranged for you.
When is the best time to have a smear test?
It is recommended that you undergo your screening when you are not having your period, as bleeding may interfere with the process.
How do you get your results?
The results will be sent from the laboratory to either the clinic or your doctor. The results will come with a recommendation for the next step in care or treatment.