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Should I get cervical cancer screening?

In the UK, women are invited to have their cervical screening done by the NHS every few years depending on their age. It is recommended that all women between the ages of 25 to 64 should have regular screenings, however, it is important to go sooner if something abnormal is present.

The NHS recommends women under 25 visit up to 6 months before their 25th birthday and then every 3 years until the age of 49. For ages 50-64, it’s recommended to have a test every 5 years and then after age 65, it's recommended to have a test if something feels or looks abnormal.

Cervical cancer is very rare in women under 25, which is why the NHS doesn’t formally invite women under the age of 25. Changes in cells of the cervix are common in that age group, however, they mostly return to normal and are less likely to develop into cancer. The reason the NHS doesn’t invite people under the age of 25, is because most of the time it evens itself out and it would cause unnecessary treatment and stress.

While cervical screening isn’t a pleasant experience for most women as it is an uncomfortable and intrusive procedure, it is vital to staying healthy and safe as a woman. Cervical screening checks for HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which is responsible for causing changes in your cervix cells- which can cause cancer.

During cervical screening, a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix and tested for HPV. If HPV is detected in the sample, the patient will be treated before the HPV cells have a chance to turn into cervical cancer. While this test isn’t a test for cancer, it’s a way to prevent cancer in women.

If a patient tests negative for HPV, then nothing happens to them. They simply move on with their day and need to wait for their next scheduled appointment. Cell changes are unlikely to happen without HPV, so cancer is very unlikely without HPV being present. If the patient is HPV positive, there are treatments and tests possible to ensure it doesn’t cause cervical cancer.

There are risks in cervical screening as with any test, where on the rare occasion it will cause a false positive result and find abnormal changes that aren’t actually there. Although this would cause unwanted stress, it is still vital to take part in cervical screening as it can make a difference in somebody’s life and prevent cervical cancer.


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