Cervical Smears

Posted by: alex - Posted on:

There’s a petition currently circulating regarding the change of cervical screening from every 3 years to every 5 years. The reasons for this change haven’t been adequately explained to the general public and it has understandably caused a great deal of concern. But don’t panic – the change is evidence based and not a cost-saving exercise, and changing smears from every 3 years to every 5 years will NOT lead to an increase in cervical cancer rates/deaths, and this is why:
– A couple of years ago, the way smear tests are done changed slightly (but not everyone is aware of this as the actual procedure and way the sample is taken stayed pretty much the same)
– With the “old” smear test, a sample of cells was taken from the cervix, which was then looked at under a microscope to see if there are any changes to the cells (which could later become cancerous).
– With the “new” smear test, a sample of cells is still taken, however instead of the cells being looked at first, the sample is first checked for a virus called HPV. If HPV is present, the cells will then be checked for abnormalities. If HPV is not present, the cells will not be checked.
– The reason for this is that almost all cases of cervical cancer are linked to the presence of HPV. So if you don’t have HPV on the sample then you are extremely unlikely to have abnormal cell changes
– If you get HPV, it can take usually between 5-10 years for that HPV to cause changes to the cervical cells
– So with the “new” smear tests, if you test negative for HPV on the sample, even if you then get HPV the day after your test, it will take (at least) 5 years for any cell changes to happen. So doing a smear test 3 years after a smear test that was negative for HPV is fairly useless really.
Smears save lives,