Let's Nip Cervical Cancer in the Bud!

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Did you know that in Scotland, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35? Six women are diagnosed with the disease every week.
I wrote about my experience with it a few years ago when I issued a plea to get yourself booked in for a smear and following Scotland's new 'Flower' campaign I'm urging you all to not to ignore your next invitation and help 'nip it in the bud'.

The campaign video encourages women aged 25-34 living in Scotland not to ignore their next smear invite or to contact their GP to make an appointment if they've missed their last smear. In 2017/18, one in three women didn't attend their smear invitation.
The 'Flower' aims to encourage discussion about smears and cervical health as many women feel embarrassed discussing this but 'flower' gets them talking. It's not about scaremongering but more about empowering people to go and get it done. 

A smear test is not the most pleasant procedure to have done, I'll agree with that wholeheartedly, however it is one of the most important procedures to have done and I'd strongly encourage everyone to do so.

The procedure, which detects cells which can cause cancer, usually takes about 5-10 minutes in all and usually is done by a nurse. You can bring a friend or relative into the room if you are nervous.
You will be asked to lie on the bed and bend your knees to the sides with you ankles together while a nurse inserts a speculum then a small brush (a little like a funny mascara brush) which is swirled around the cervix to collect a sample of cells. It can be a little uncomfortable but lasts only a few minutes. You might bleed a little afterwards and may even have a bit of cramping but a few paracetamol can help with that.

My own smear, a few years ago, detected abnormalities which I needed treatment for. The LLETZ treatment  I had meant that I had to deliver my son via C-section but the alternative doesn't bear thinking about - this is also quite unusual but important to mention as although I had complications, the smear quite literally could have saved my life. 

Many people feel worried, anxious or embarrassed about having a smear done, this campaign is about empowerment to talk about and book a smear. Even the thought of smears can be terrifying for some people due to previous trauma, abuse, simply not having enough information or worrying about the results, which can lead to people not attending. It's ok if you feel like it's something you can't do right now however a smear is so important and could save your life. If this is you, I'd encourage you to speak to a trusted friend or family member and visit the Jo's Trust website as it's full of information, guidance and support to help you. I found the information invaluable when I needed some myself. 

Although in Scotland we are invited for smears from age 25, it's very important to contact your GP right away if you have any unusual symptoms at any age as smears can be arranged before 25 if you have concerns, just speak to your GP or practice nurse and don't take no for an answer if you are worried.

Remember, a smear test can help detect cervical cancer before it starts. Don't ignore your next smear invite and if you've missed your last smear test, contact your GP practice to find a time that suits you - Let's nip cervical cancer in the bud!

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