Cervical screening (or a cervical/pap smear) is a method of finding abnormal cells on the cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina).
What is Cervical Screening?
Cervical screening (or a cervical/pap smear) is a method of finding abnormal cells on the cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina). Cervical screening is not a test for cervical cancer, but rather a test for cells that can lead to cancer.
Why should I have a Cervical Screening Test?
Finding and removing abnormal cells from your cervix can prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages, which is why it’s so important to have cervical screening done to ensure the cervix is healthy.
Symptoms of cervical cancer vary, but can include:
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
- menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual
- bleeding after intercourse
- increased vaginal discharge
- pain during sexual intercourse
- bleeding after menopause
- unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or back pain
It’s important to note that, whilst cervical screening is not a test for cervical cancer, it can detect abnormalities that can lead to cancer.
How often should I have a Cervical Screening Test?
Every 3 years, if you are sexually active and over 20 years.
Generally the virus that is thought to cause cervical changes, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is transient and the body is capable of clearing it. It is the persistence of this virus that leads to the changes in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. You are, of course, welcome to have a cervical screening test as often as you wish, but you shouldn’t have one when you’re on your period.
What happens at the Cervical Screening appointment?
When you arrive at the hospital, you will be welcomed by a member of the hospital staff who will check you in and let Dr. Penman know you have arrived. The time you have booked for your appointment is the time you will be seen – there are no waiting times when you book to see Dr. Penman privately.
Dr. Penman will come to greet you and show you to the clinic room where he will ask you for any personal details relevant to the appointment and take the cervical sample.
Before your sample is taken, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a bed. A speculum will be gently inserted into your vagina and holds the walls of the vagina open. A soft brush will then be inserted to collect some cells from the surface of your cervix. The appointment takes around 15 minutes. The taking of the sample is less than 1 minute. If you wish, you may have a friend or relative present.
When will I know my test result?
Within 10 days, when you have your cervical screening test with Dr. Penman. If there are any details that require discussion, Dr. Penman will ring you. He will discuss the findings with you and potentially recommend any further treatment.
What if my test result is abnormal?
Approximately 1 in 20 cervical screening tests show cervical changes. The majority will not lead to cancer as the cells will return to normal over time. However, in some cases, the cells will remain abnormal and require treatment to ensure that they do not become cancerous. Should your test show abnormal results, Dr. Penman will advise you and arrange further treatment if required.
Why Choose Dr. Penman?
Dr. Penman is a private Consultant Gynaecologist and Fetal Medicine Specialist. He has over 25 years of experience helping women with very personal gynaecological issues, such as infertility, menorrhagia, and uterine polyps. He can offer advice on the best contraceptive method for you and can place and remove a variety of intrauterine devices and subcutaneous implants. He has owned his own private practice since 2006.