Cervical Smears

Cervical cytology tests (smear tests) are recommended for all women between the ages of 25 and 65. Our Practice follows the national screening programme.

Croydon Primary Care Trust and the Practices recall women for these tests on a 3 to 5 yearly programme.

Appointments for this smear test should be made with one of the Practice Nurses at the surgery.

Explanation taken from NHS Direct On-Line Encyclopaedia

Introduction

The cervix (or neck of the womb) is the part of your womb that you can feel at the top of your vagina. Examining a smear taken from the cervix is a useful way of finding out whether you might have early cancer of the cervix. Cancers that start here often remain in the surface layer for quite a long time before spreading in more deeply. The smear test can detect this early stage so that the cancer can be removed by a simple operation before it has gone too far.

Most women will have heard about this test (also known as the Pap smear test), which is performed by nurses as well as doctors and is offered by your local doctors' surgery or family planning clinic. You can ask for a female doctor or nurse and book a conveniently timed appointment. It has saved millions of women's lives and is one of the most successful kinds of cancer screening test.

Why it is necessary

Cervical cancer starts on the surface of the cervix, where it causes particular changes in cells. These changes can be recognised by trained experts when the cells are examined under a microscope. The cancer will not always be limited to the surface, but the smear test can detect large numbers of cases in which cancerous change has begun but has not yet had time to spread below the surface.

There is a virus that is very commonly spread among people living a sexually active life. It doesn't do much harm to men (at worst causing some small warts on the penis), but women who get this virus are more liable to cervical cancer than those who stick to one partner. This is believed to be the main reason why cervical cancer is commoner in young women than in older women. For this reason, the cervical smear test is really essential in sexually active women.

Why it should be done

If cancer of the cervix is detected at this surface stage, it can be removed by a local operation that is much less serious than the surgery needed for cancer that has spread deeper. But the best reason of all for having the test is that it is perfectly safe, not especially uncomfortable, and greatly reduces your chances of developing womb cancer.

How it is performed

The doctor or nurse carefully pushes a metal or plastic tube-like instrument called a speculum into your vagina to hold it open. He or she then uses a small, round-ended plastic or wooden strip to scrape some cells gently from in and around the opening of the womb. These cells are then smeared on a microscope slide, which is labelled and sent to the pathology laboratory to be examined.

Results

The cervical smear test is done on over three million women a year in Britain and has been found very worthwhile. As a result of routine cervical smear testing, there has been a considerable increase in the number of women in whom cancer is detected at a stage at which simple treatment can eliminate it altogether. Most of these women would otherwise have developed fully established womb cancer and would have needed extensive surgery. Many of them would have died from the disease.

Recovery

At the worst, there may be some slight local discomfort, but this will pass in a few days.

Future prospects

The cervical smear test cannot totally eliminate the possibility of womb cancer, but it can greatly reduce the risk