Don’t Fear The Smear – National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

To help raise awareness of National Ovarian Cancer Month, we’re encouraging women to be a little less fearful when it comes to getting checked out and booking an appointment to have a smear test.

Did you know?

  • Over 7,000 women each year are diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • Over 4,000 women lose their lives each year
  • When a woman is diagnosed at the earliest stage, her chance of surviving ovarian cancer for 5 years or more doubles.

A recent study discovered that 1 in 3 women aged 25-29 missed their smear test appointments, citing the reason why as ‘embarrassment’. The stigma surrounding smear tests is something that’s slowly starting to be broken down, but there’s still a long way to go before everyone is comfortable talking about a sensitive topic. A smear test will not detect ovarian cancer, but is important to have done and can detect signs of cervical cancer.

What is a smear test?

The test is simple and quick check to help prevent cancer and is not a direct test for cancer. The test is designed to check the health of your cervix and can check for abnormal cell changes within your cervix. It’s also used to check for HPV (human papillomavirus). Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by infection with a certain type of HPV.

How often should you have a smear test?

You’ll be invited to take part in a cervical screening test at different stages throughout your life. With the recommended time frame being between the ages of 25 and 64, regular visits are encouraged.

Age When You’ll Be Invited
Under 25 Up to 6 months before you turn 25
25 to 49 Every 3 years
50 to 64 Every 5 years
65 or older Only if 1 of your last 3 tests was abnormal

How to book a smear test

The best way to book a cervical screening appointment is typically when you have received a letter inviting you to book an appointment, usually done at your local GP by a female nurse or doctor. If you have not yet received a letter but are over the age of 25, you can contact your GP directly to arrange an appointment.

Here’s some tips if you’re still a little worried about the test itself:

  • Bring someone with you – Doing it with a friend can help make the process easier. You’ll be going through it together and there’s a hand to hold should you need it.
  • The nurse is there to make you feel comfortable, so if you’re unsure on anything just ask, they’ve heard it all before and will help put you at ease.
  • The procedure takes minutes if that, but you can always try bringing some music along to help relax you.

For more advice and information on cervical screenings and how you can look after yourself both now and in the future visit the NHS cervical screening page.

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