A smear test (also known as Cervical Cancer screening) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. It is commonly associated with screening for cervical cancer and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
The test is performed using a simple swab to take a sample of the cells in your cervix. It is painless and quick to perform. The best time to take the test is between cycles, not close to the end or the beginning. You should avoid sexual activity for 24 hours before the test
Most women’s test results will come back normal, with nothing to worry about. However, in some patients, we will detect early changes of cervical cells or a warning sign of a positive high-risk HPV virus.
If this happens, treatments recommended may include laser treatment, LLETZ or cone excision. Most of the changes in cervical cells will lead to cervical cancer if they are not managed and treated properly.
Many people think that a smear test only detects cervical cancer but it also checks the health of all of the cells in your cervix and, whilst performing it, your gynaecologist will examine the area so that any other abnormalities in your vagina can be detected and treated.
Consequently, it is extremely important to participate in regular gynaecological checkups and smear tests as soon as you become sexually active to ensure that you maintain good sexual health and healthy reproductive organs. Even if you are not currently sexually active, we still recommend that you participate in regular testing because even if you are celibate, it is still possible for your cervical cells to change.
Cervical cell abnormalities associated with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can be detected using the smear test.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine provides important protection against two of the main types of HPV: type 16 and type 18 of the high-risk virus, and types 6 and 11 of the low-risk virus.
The vaccine consists of 3 injections in the upper arm, which should be taken at 1 month, at 3 months and then after 6 months. Studies show that, if taken correctly, the vaccine will protect the woman against the HPV virus and cervical cancer cell changes. It is recommended that all girls who are not yet sexually active have the vaccine. If you were already sexually active before having the vaccination, it will not be effective.
In the UK, we recommend that all girls aged 9-13 receive the vaccine as soon as possible. If you are older than that age and become sexually active, then we will carry out a series of tests to determine if you can have the vaccine.
Cervical erosion refers to changes in the cells in, and around, the opening of the cervix. The exact reason why it occurs is unknown. However, studies suggest that it may be related to a disturbance in the normal female hormones. Symptoms associated with Cervical Erosion include abnormal bleeding, spotting, discharge, or pain during or after sex.
The best way to diagnose cervical erosion is to participate in regular gynaecological checkups and smear tests. These will enable your gynaecologist to identify whether your cervix is healthy (during erosion) or whether there is any abnormal cellular activity or infection. Your gynaecologist may also identify that glandular cells, which are usually only present in the cervical canal, have appeared outside the cervix. This can cause you to produce an abnormal quantity of discharge.
If thorough examinations and investigations identify that you have cervical erosion, we recommend that you have a smear test immediately to rule out the possibility of underlying cervical cancer.
Cervical erosion is common during a woman’s reproductive years. If you are diagnosed with it, please do not worry, but book an appointment with one of our experienced gynaecologists who will be able to examine the area and advise you on treatment. This will depend on your symptoms examination, investigations and fertility history.
The cellular changes mentioned above occur in all normal healthy cells and change the cervix’s appearance- which usually resembles skin- to a velvet-like aesthetic. In the majority of cases, the changes are purely physiological and not pathological. Therefore, many patients with cervical erosion do not require medical intervention; the only time cervical erosion requires treating is if complications occur.
If you have never had any children but plan to, you should seek advice before agreeing to undergo any treatment for cervical erosion. This is because unnecessary treatment may lead to problems conceiving in the future.
If you receive treatment for cervical erosion, avoid using any tampons or participating in penetrative sex until the area is completely healed in approximately 6 weeks.
Cervical Polyps are small, elongated non-cancerous growths that grow either on the surface of the cervix or inside the cervical canal. They are red or purple in colour. They are most likely to be diagnosed in women of a reproductive age or women who are in the post-menopausal period.
There may not always be any noticeable symptoms, but some common ones are:
Cervical Polyps are usually non-cancerous. However, they can signify the early stages of cervical cancer. They can be easily removed using a simple, non-invasive, pain-free procedure. Ideally, your gynaecologist should also investigate the potential of uterine polyps using ultrasound and hysteroscopy.
If you have any questions, please book an appointment with Queen’s Clinic by phoning us on 020 7935 5540.
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