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Cervical Cancer Screening – The Facts

The Facts and Statistics

HPV:
1. HPV is very common; we’re all likely to have it at some point in our lives and our immune system usually fights it off on its own. You can have it if you have had 1 or 100 sexual partners and it’s when your immune system can’t fight the virus off naturally that the cervical abnormalities develop
2. We develop immunity to the HPV virus with age which is why its more common in younger people
3. There are many strains of HPV, only if you test positive for the high risk cancer causing ones (strains 16 or 18) will you require treatment
4. Working on your immunity can help your body to fight off HPV naturally. A fully functioning immune system can fight the virus which causes the abnormalities more effectively than a partially functioning one
5. The HPV vaccine given to teenagers isn’t 100% guaranteed to prevent cervical cancer and your suitability for it is dependent on being sexually active and other factors. If you’re passed the age where they give it currently or are an adult you won’t be suitable for it now.

Screening:
1. Screening is a preventative measure, it very rarely means you already have cancer, it’s designed to prevent you getting it
2. Treatment is around 95% effective
3. About 1 in 20 tests shows some level of abnormality
4. About 3-4 in every 100 tests show borderline changes
5. About 2 in every 100 tests show mild abnormalities (related to CIN1)
6. About 6-7 in every 1,000 tests show moderate or severe abnormalities (related to CIN2 and CIN3)
7. Less than 1 test in 1,000 has invasive or glandular neoplasia (related to CGIN), one of the more serious abnormalities. This suggests cervical cancer might be present but this is notproven until a biopsy has been taken at colposcopy.
8. Less than 1 in 1000 tests show invasive cancer
9. For women between 25 and 49, 3 yearly screening prevents 84 cervical cancers out of every 100 that would develop without screening
10. Almost half of the new cases of cervical cancer in the UK occur in women who have never had a smear test
11. Smoking increases your risk of developing these cells

Jade Goody:
1. Here is a link to her timeline if you’d like to recap. Her tragedy did an incredible job raising awareness however after an initial surge screening figures have now dropped again as per this article by the Daily Mail.
2. This is a great video – made only better by the mustache…some great points addressed and Jade Goody mentioned.

Points to remember:
1. When you go for your colposcopy try not to book an appointment for when you are on your period, its ok if its very light but going when its heavy is risky – always call up and check
2. You will feel incontinent for a few weeks after, like old age come early. My understanding is as the cervix heals (bucket at the ready) it secretes a clear discharge. It’s normal though and not dissimilar to having a clear period – just wear a sanitary towel
3. No heavy exercise for 4 weeks after treatment
4. No tampons for 4 weeks after treatment
5. I’ve read no flying for six weeks after treatment but I cannot verify this
6. No sex for 4 weeks after treatment
7. I had slight stomach ache for a few days after and I believe this is normal
8. If you have treatment you will have a smear in six months time and if this is clear, once a year for a number of years
9. By going for regular smears you will stay on top of it if the cells return and you will catch them in time

Notes:
* All stats are from sources I have read and respected but I cannot personally verify their validity.
* I am speaking from personal experience; others may have had different experiences to this. I am only going on the professionals and establishments I had treating me.

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