Dear doctor, I've been invited for a smear test. Is it vital I go right away?

25 January 2017

Q: I’ve just turned 25 and received a letter to attend a smear test. Is it vital I go right away? Why do I need to have this now?

A: Now that you have been contacted for a smear test, it is important that you arrange to have this done with your GP or Practice Nurse. There is no urgency to arrange an appointment, however a convenient time over the next 2-3 months would be sensible.

The cervical smear test is a quick and simple procedure which involves having an internal examination so that the cervix, which is the lower part of your womb can be seen. A sample of the cells from this area is taken using a soft brush (so this should not be painful) and the sample is then sent to a laboratory for examination under the microscope.

Smear tests are a very important part of a woman's health screen as they are able to detect if you are at risk of developing cervical cancer in the future. If your smear is abnormal it does not mean you have cancer and most women with an abnormal smear will not get cervical cancer. An abnormal result indicates that further testing by a doctor or nurse is needed, and if any treatment is required it can be carried out to reduce your risk of more problems in the future.

Smear tests are usually performed every 3-5 years although, if you have had an abnormal test, you may need to have one more frequently.

Since the routine cervical smears programme was introduced, the number of women developing cervical cancer has fallen considerably, which underlines the importance of taking the test in order to help prevent this disease developing.

Mr Christopher Guyer is a Consultant Gynaecologist practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.


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