Women under 35 are the likeliest group to suffer from cervical cancer. Despite that scary fact, a recent study shows that as many as a third of women in the age group are neglecting life-saving cervical screenings for nonmedical reasons.
Although the statistic is hard to believe, I can because I previously put my screening off for four years due to laziness and issues with my access to GP care. After failing to follow up on my general practitioner's invitation for a mandatory smear test, I finally had the procedure done privately this past year. If you're putting your cervical screening off due to trepidation, relax and read up on the four things I found out while preparing to get the screening.
When do you do it?
The best time to have a cervical screening is around 14 days after your period. If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, it may be best to wait until you've finished your period to book your appointment. It's important to note that if you miss this window of time, you'll have to wait another month to have the test.
As for when you're required to take the test, women between the ages of 25 and 49 have to be screened every three years to keep on top of any possible development of abnormal cells. From 50 to 64 years of age, this decreases to every five years, and after 65 years old, you aren't required to have another screening unless you haven't been screened since the age of 50, or have recently had a screening showing abnormal results.
Where can you do it?
Due to NHS regulations regarding continuity of care, cervical screenings can't be done at sexual health clinics, meaning you have to see your GP for the procedure. If you're unable to get an appointment or don't have a GP close to where you live, you may have to go private, in which case you will have to pay for the screening yourself.
What happens during the test?
A cervical screening takes fewer than five minutes and is similar to a sexual health screening. You'll be required to remove your underwear, lay down on an examination table, and put your legs in stirrups. Your care provider will then insert a lubricated speculum into your vagina followed by a long thin brush that looks like a cotton bud. After swiping the soft brush end on your cervix to collect a swab, you will be able to put your bottoms back on and leave. The process is relatively pain-free, and you should receive your results within two weeks.
Who performs it?
At many GP surgeries, a nurse will perform the procedure, while at private clinics, you can choose whether a nurse or doctor conducts the procedure — the latter usually costs more than the former. If you prefer to have a female physician conducting your exam, you are free to specify that.