The focus of Gynaecological Awareness Month in 2016 is to encourage women to “Know Your Body”, to speak up and end the stigma surrounding gynaecological conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms that you think are unusual and you are concerned, always ask your Doctor. If the symptoms persist, ask again. If you feel it is necessary, do not be afraid to ask your GP for a referral to a specialist Gynaecologist.
What is Cervical Screening?
Cervical Screening has been an important step for the early detection of cervical cancer (and other non-cancerous conditions) and provides an opportunity for early treatment. It is a quick and simple test which saves lives.
When did regular screening start?
The current screening programme was introduced in 1988 and it has helped to reduce the number of cervical cancer cases by about 7% each year. This is a huge reduction. Results do sometimes show abnormalities, but it is not always something to worry about. Whilst about 1 in 20 women will have an abnormal smear test result, only about 1 in 2000 will have cervical cancer.
Can my smear test result be wrong?
The reduction in numbers of cervical cancer is fantastic, but understandably the system is not always 100% accurate.
There remains a possibility for smear test results to be wrong or sometimes tests may be labelled as “inadequate”. For various different reasons, the sample taken may be insufficient for a conclusion to be drawn and usually, a repeat smear will then be recommended.
Normally, a properly taken smear would show pre-cancerous abnormalities up to 10 years prior to the development of invasive disease. Making an early diagnosis can mean much less invasive treatment known as LLETZ, before an invasive cancer develops.
Women are strongly encouraged to attend their smear test appointments. The cervical cancer screening programme suggests women attend as follows:-
• aged 25 to 49 – every three years.
• aged 50 to 64 – every five years.
• over 65 – only women who haven’t been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests.
Unfortunately, if a smear test is wrongly interpreted or diagnosis is delayed for some reason, treatment can be much more invasive and involve radiotherapy, chemotherapy and/or radical surgery. In one of our recent cases a smear test was wrongly interpreted meaning that diagnosis was delayed by several years and an invasive cancer developed meaning radiotherapy was required. This had unfortunate severe consequences leading to the lady having long term incontinence issues and pain.
The simple rule for most cancers will always be that the earlier diagnosis is made, the better. The key thing is to know your body, if you have symptoms and are worried, speak to your GP. Follow expert advice and attend your Cervical Screening appointments. Early diagnosis means early treatment, so don’t be afraid to speak out and let your GP know your concerns.
September 2016 is gynaecological cancer awareness month as organised by The Eve Appeal.
Please see the following links for more information.