Not going for a cervical screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer. We spoke to Doctor Lauren Wilson-Kelly, GP at Indigo Medical, to find out more about more about cervical screening and when it’s time to get checked out, not to put it off. You can see the full interview at: youtube.com/governmentofjersey. You can also search “cervical screening” at gov.je

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN I TURN UP FOR MY CERVICAL SCREENING?

When you arrive for your appointment, the Doctor will try to put you at ease and will ask if you would like somebody else in the room with you at the time of the procedure. We will invite you to come up onto the bed, ask for you to lie down and remove everything from the waist down. We’ll then ask you to bring your heels up towards your bottom and let your knees part to the sides. First, we’ll use the speculum, which is a little device that we pop into the vagina that opens up and allows us to visualise the neck of the womb (or the cervix). We then use a little brush, which is made of very soft plastic, and stroke it against the neck of the womb to collect some cells that are later sent off to the lab. At the lab, they collect the cells off the end of the brush, put them onto a little slide, stain them and look at them under the microscope, checking for any early changes in the cells that could later go on to develop into a cancer. If we catch it early, in three out of four cases we can prevent cervical cancer through screening.

WHY AM I NOT OFFERED A CERVICAL SCREENING IF I’M UNDER 25?

I understand there is quite a lot of anxiety from women under 25 who feel they should be allowed to have the test. There are actually good reasons why it’s not offered to women under 25, as it’s common for younger women to have abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which change back to normal and don’t increase the risk of cancer. Having treatment in the colposcopy clinic under the age of 25, for cell changes that would disappear on their own, could result in a slightly increased risk of premature birth in a future pregnancy plus cause unnecessary anxiety and distress for young women.

However, the important thing to say is, if you’re under the age of 25 and you have any symptoms you’re worried about, go to see your GP, talk it through, and potentially have some examinations.

WILL IT BE EMBARRASSING?

It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. What we are thinking about is trying to put you at ease and doing the screening appropriately. I know some women will say, “oh I’m so sorry, I haven’t shaved my legs or waxed” but that’s the last thing on our minds. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about!

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

Screening is actually quite a quick test, generally less than 5 minutes. Results tend to come back within 2-4 weeks and you will receive a letter through the post containing those results. If you are aged 25 to 49, you should attend for cervical screening every three years; if you are aged 50-64, you should attend every five years.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

The good news is cervical screening was made free in Jersey eight months ago and numbers have soared by more than a quarter compared to the same period 12 months earlier!