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Cervical Cancer, Smear Tests and Vaccinations

Who Can Have a Smear Test?

A Smear Test (or PAP Smear) is available for women of any age, including anyone under the age of 25, who is worried about cervical cancer.

When Should I have a Smear Test?

A smear test is used to find women at risk of developing cervical cancer. Our Smear tests are very accurate at any stage of your menstural cycle.  We do ask you to check that you are not bleeding on the day of your test, as this will make it much harder to collect a sample of cells.  In the past it has been advised to test in the middle of your cycle (Day 1 is the first day of your period).  However, with our test this is no longer necessary. If you are sexually active you should have a regular smear test, starting from around twelve months after you are sexually active.

What Happens During My Smear Test?

We will take a small sample of cells from your cervix.  They will ask if you have any questions before they begin.  Then will ask you to remove your underwear (you may prefer to wear a skirt).  It can be a little bit uncomfortable, but will not hurt.  The clinician will help you to relax, and be as efficient as they can be.  The sample is then sent to our accredited laboratory for analysis.  The results will be back in five working days from when your sample is received in the laboratory.

What Do The Results Mean?

The test looks for abnormal or pre-cancerous cells in your cervix. Most people’s results will be normal, and it will be suggested that you get retested in three years time.

If your test detects any borderline changes to your cervical cells, then we will automatically test the sample to see if you have an HPV infection, and which types of HPV.  This does not meant that you have cervical cancer. This will help to detect whether any borderline changes are as a result of an HPV infection.  HPV is a common cause of many cases of cervical cancer.  If you have borderline cells and an HPV infection, then we will help you to access further investigations to find our what is causing the changes in your cells.

We recommend that you choose the Smear test with an HPV test to get a full picture of your cervical health.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. HPV is sexually transmitted and is very common. It is estimated that roughly 40% of sexually active people have the HPV virus. There are over 100 types or strains of HPV though only some are known to lead to changes in the cervix that cause cancer. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HPV. However, the symptoms of HPV which include genital warts and cervical changes can be treated. If you are sexually active or have symptoms of HPV, you should get tested regularly.

HPV and Cervical Screening

The purpose of HPV and screening of your cervix is to detect changes to the cells before they become cancerous and test for the presence of HPV virus types.

Better2Know offers you a comprehensive suite of tests for women and men which offer a full examination of your HPV status and cervical health for women.

For women, the following tests are available:

  1. The combined PAP Smear and HPV test is recommended for women who are concerned about their HPV status and cervical health.  This combined test will look for any changes to the cells of your cervix as well as test your sample for 20 types of the HPV virus.
  2. The PAP Smear uses a small brush to collect cells from your cervix and these cells will be examined for any trace of abnormalities.  With this test, and only if any abnormalities are detected, the sample will be automatically tested for the relevant HPV virus types.
  3. The HPV test obtains a sample from an appropriate site and that sample will be tested using a PCR method to detect up to 14 High Risk and 6 Low Risk viral types.  It should be noted that this test may disrupt the cells of the cervix rendering them unsuitable to PAP testing for a period of time.

For men,  our clinic offers swab tests for HPV.  We will determine the appropriate site (visible wart, urethra, or anus) for sampling.

Results are available five days from when the sample is received in the laboratory.

Vaccine

You can choose to have a vaccine that can protect you  against certain high risk types of HPV which cause cervical cancer (types 16 and 18). There are two vaccines available and are considered 99% effective against the highest risk strains of HPV.