Cervical Cancer Screening
A cervical screening test (smear test) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells can prevent cervical cancer. In the traditional test, in about 1 in 20 women, the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. Most of these changes won't lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own, but in some cases, the abnormal cells needed to be removed so they do not progress to cancer. This was done every 2-5 years, depending on your country’s screening policy. Cervical cancer is most common in women between 30-45, and rare under the age of 25. Whilst you may have received the HPV vaccine, not all strains are covered and therefore as it is still relatively new preventative treatment, it is safer to join a recall programme for screening.
We now know that the key factor that makes cervical cells change to cancer is infection with a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It is extremely unlikely to get cancer of the cervix if you don’t have this infection.
Recent studies have shown that by testing for HPV as a first step, we might be able to decrease the risk of cancer of the cervix by 22%, and less screening is required.
Due to these important factors of early detection the International Health Centres has changed its recall programme to reflect this. Those of you already on our recall list will automatically be contacted. New patients are welcome to contact us by email or telephone to make an appointment to see Dra Ana or Dra Helena. firstname.lastname@example.org or 00351 289 588923.
From now on, screening need only start at the age of 25. Testing is performed at 25, 30, 35, 40, 50 and 60 years of age. Also anyone outside of this age bracket that would still like to be tested is more than welcome to contact us for an appointment.
- If the HPV test is negative no further action is required, repeat according to schedule.
- If HPV is positive we do a smear.
- If the smear is normal, repeat just the smear in six months. If this smear is normal again, then go back to the HPV schedule. Most women who get infected with HPV clear the infection, so if your first text was positive it does not mean necessarily that a test five years later will also be positive.
- If the smear is abnormal, we refer for further treatment.
- If your last HPV test was positive, you will need a repeat HPV test in 5 years regardless of age.
The Netherlands was the first country to switch to this new system and the UK will follow shortly. The introduction of this latest technology will not only offer improved protection for women, but is also less invasive. Although the technique is the same as a smear, as long as test are negative, it will be done less often.
Please contact the clinic for further information and join our recall programme.