18 January 2019
For many older women the smear test, now more generally called a cervical screening test by GPs, has been part of their adult life, though many still miss it for various reasons. At Spire Dunedin Hospital we’re encouraging women to get screened, particularly as, with the new 10 year NHS plan now published, 2019 will see changes in the way screening is carried out through GP surgeries. With the introduction of the HPV vaccination younger women (vaccinated against HPV types 16/18) are now receiving letters inviting them to be tested, with a different type of test being performed.
The UK NSC recommended that primary HR-HPV testing is a more appropriate test for vaccinated women because the incidence of cervical abnormalities, known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) or, less commonly, cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN), (depending on which cells are affected) will be lower. Thus using primary HR-HPV testing to screen women will identify more women at risk of developing cervical cancer. It will save more lives by determining a woman’s risk earlier and by having a lower false negative rate – with more than 3 million women a year booking a smear test appointment, it is estimated that more than 5,000 lives will be saved.
Women who are not vaccinated will be offered the traditional form of test, which will also be carried out on women considered to be at higher risk of cervical cancer or who test HR-HPV positive. If HPV testing finds that a woman does not have high risk HPV then her chances of developing a cancer within 5 years are very small. However, if the following are experienced you are strongly encouraged to see a doctor as soon as possible:
- bleeding between your periods, after sex, or after the menopause
- vaginal discharge
- pain or discomfort during sex
Don’t wait for your next cervical screening appointment. Our Consultant Gynaecologist Mr Alex Swanton performs smear tests with no need for the samples to be sent away, as we have an on-site pathology department. Our Gynaecological department is one of Berkshire’s leading private practices offering investigation, diagnosis and treatment of Gynaecological conditions, with minimal delay. Spire Dunedin Hospital will treat you with empathy and respect throughout and are able to provide chaperones if needed.
The introduction of HPV primary testing has major benefits for women. By understanding the test some of the ‘excuses’ used for not going to a smear test can be removed. The actual test itself takes only a minute or two and the whole process will be explained fully. In total the appointment usually only takes about 10-15 minutes. There might be some very mild discomfort, though this will pass quickly. Don’t fear the smear – it could save your life.