Why you shouldn’t put off your smear test

June 30, 2020 12:39:35 PM

Chrissy Teigen has posted a timely reminder to keep up with cervical screenings.

The coronavirus outbreak has meant these appointments haven’t been possible for everyone, but things are slowly starting to return to normal. Routine smear tests will resume on July 6 in Ireland, they’re back up in running in Scotland, soon to restart in Wales and sporadically happening across England.

There are fears smear tests won’t be particularly well attended. According to research published by Jo’s Cancer Trust, 39% of women are worried about their appointments, with 12% saying they’re less likely to go than before the pandemic, and 13% saying they will put off their screening for the moment. Concerns around these appointments include safety fears, not wanting to put additional strain on the NHS and uncertainty over any changes.

With so many appointments delayed due to the pandemic, there will be a backlog of people who need to get a smear test – but they shouldn’t be deterred because of the pandemic.

Cancer Research UK’s health information manager Karis Betts says: “Some people might not accept their invitation to cervical screening for emotional or cultural reasons. Or because they don’t know that screening is for those without symptoms.

“But cervical screening is a quick procedure, which provides lasting protection against cervical cancer. Because of Covid-19, there are delays to invitations and follow-up appointments but we encourage anyone who is invited to think about taking part. There’s still work to do to break down barriers and make screening as accessible and effective as possible for everyone, once screening fully resumes.”

Cervical screenings are crucial to check the health of your cervix. During the test, a small sample of cells is taken and checked for human papillomavirus (HPV) – if these cells are found, they can be treated before potentially turning into cervical cancer.

How often you need a smear test depends on your age – the NHS recommends every three years for people aged 25 to 49, every five years for those between the ages of 50 and 64 and over 65s only need to get a screening if one of their last three tests was abnormal.

Rebecca Shoosmith, head of support services at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, says: “Cervical screening is the best protection against developing cervical cancer, but it isn’t always an easy test. There are lots of reasons that can make it difficult to attend, so if you are anxious or unsure about whether to go, then that’s totally normal. We can help talk you through what happens at the test, provide tips to make it easier and help you understand your results.”

The appointment might look a little different to what you’re used to. Social distancing measures will be in place in your GP’s surgery, while doctors, nurses and patients might need to wear PPE (personal protective equipment). If you do have coronavirus symptoms, you should self-isolate and reschedule the appointment for another time.

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