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Women's Health

Cervical Smears

Cervical Cancer

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus or womb and is often referred to as the neck of the womb. Cells on the outer surface can sometimes develop abnormalities. Although these abnormal cells will often return to normal without any treatment, sometimes they can persist and if left un-treated they can develop into cancer. Abnormalities in the cervix and early cervical cancer cause no symptoms but they can be detected by screening.

The smear test is used to take a sample of cells from the cervix for analysis. Most women consider this procedure to be only mildly uncomfortable. A smear test is best taken mid-cycle. The smear test will detect abnormal cells and if they persist then they can be easily treated in a hospital out-patient department. Treatment will prevent cancer from occurring.

Cervical cancer is preventable!

Risk factors

Significant risk factors are multiple sexual partners and infection with the Human Papilloma virus (HPV or wart virus).

Facts

  • Cancer of the cervix is one of the most common female cancers worldwide and the UK has the second highest recorded incidence in the European Community and there were 2,740 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in England & Wales in 1997(ONS 1998).
  • “Just under 19,000 women in England and Wales were found to have the most important type of pre-cancer, usually described as CIN 3. This can only be detected by screening and is treated to prevent invasive cancer developing.”(NHS 2001)
  • Cervical screening prevents between 1,100 and 3,900 cases of cervical cancer each year. (Sasieni et al 1996).

Screening

All women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years. In the light of evidence published in 2003 the NHS Cervical Screening Programme now offers screening at different intervals depending on age. This means that women are provided with a more targeted and effective screening programme.

The new intervals are: Ages 25 to 49 - 3 yearly; Ages 50 to 65 - 5 yearly; Age 65+ screen those who have not been screened since age 50 or have had recent abnormal tests.

If you are between the ages of 25-64 and have not received an invitation for your 3-5 yearly, free NHS cervical smear test then contact your surgery. Alternatively private cervical smear tests can be arranged here at The Health Station.

Reference

http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical/index.html

The ThinPrep® Smear Test

New Technology that offers you a better test.

The first real improvement to the Pap Smear Test since it was introduced. Cervical smears at The Health Station are now all ThinPrep© (Liquid Based Cytology - LBC) thus adhering to current recommended best practice.

What is LBC?

Liquid based cytology (LBC) is a new way of preparing cervical samples for examination in the laboratory. The sample is collected in a similar way to the conventional smear, using a special device which brushes cells from the neck of the womb. Rather than smearing the sample onto a microscope slide as happens with the conventional smear, the head of the brush, where the cells are lodged, is broken off into a small glass vial containing preservative fluid, or rinsed directly into the preservative fluid. The sample is sent to the laboratory where it is spun and treated to remove obscuring material, for example mucus or pus, and a random sample of the remaining cells is taken. A thin layer of the cells is deposited onto a slide. The slide is examined in the usual way under a microscope by a cytologist.

How will women benefit from the introduction of LBC?

The reduction in inadequate rates from using LBC will be of considerable benefit to women in terms of reducing anxiety, uncertainty and the need for repeat smears.

Inadequate smears are those where a confident result cannot be issued. This happens, for example, where blood or other matter in the sample makes it impossible to see the cells on the slide properly. In these cases, women are invited back for a second test. With LBC smears, the number of 'inadequate' test results will fall and therefore so will the number of women who need a second test. A faster turnaround time in the laboratory also means that women will get their results more quickly.

Medicals

The Health Station offers medical examinations tailored to suit you, these can include cervical smears. For more information go here.