All women between the age of 25 and 64 are invited for cervical screening through the national screening service – the test is a screening test to detect changes to the cells of the cervix, which are called cervical abnormalities or precancer. Women should definitely take up the offer of screening as it is the best protection against developing cervical cancer.
The good news is that between 90 and 94% of all screening results come back normal, with no abnormalities found and an abnormal screening result rarely means cancer.
Further good news – cervical cancer is very rare in women under 25. Approximately 2 out of every 100 women diagnosed are under 25 (Cancer research UK). The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination programme introduced in 2008 and given to girls aged 11-13 in Scotland, is likely to reduce this statistic even further over time.
Note that Women under the age of 25 are no longer called up for the national screening service. This is because evidence has shown that high risk HPV infections are common in women under 25 making it likely that if younger women went for cervical screening a high percentage of them would test positive for cervical abnormalities. When a woman has high risk HPV, the infection may cause the cells of the cervix to become abnormal, but for most women these cervical abnormalities will clear up by themselves as the body’s own immune system gets rid of the HPV infection. If high grade changes were found these women would be advised to have the cells removed, as this is the current standard treatment practice in the UK. However, most women with high risk HPV will clear the infection within 12 to 18 months and then the cervical abnormalities will go back to normal.
However, some women are unable to clear high risk HPV and the abnormal cervical cells caused by a persistent infection could, with time, turn into cervical cancer.
Clearly, young women, as well as older women who have worries over any symptoms they are experiencing, will want to get these checked.
The most common symptom of cervical cancer is:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding in between periods, and/or during or after sex
Other symptoms include:
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Lower back pain
Examinations and smear tests are available at Glasgow Medical Rooms for women of all ages and these are undertaken by a female doctor. Please contact us for further details.
A wealth of information can be found on the Jo’s Trust website – https://www.jostrust.org.uk/about-us/