The Importance of Cervical Screening


Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer seen in females in the UK, with around 3,200 women being diagnosed with the illness every year. It is most diagnosed in women between the ages of 30-45 and is detected when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way. Warning signs of cervical cancer can be detected and treated before they progress into cancer so regular screening for women is vital.

With routine screening on the NHS only being offered every 3 to 5 years, book a private cervical screening or home HPV test today to give you more regular peace of mind.

What Causes Cervical Cancer?

Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection from one of the high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is detected in 99% of cervical cancers and the subtypes HPV-16 and HPV-18 account for over two thirds of cases. HPV is very easy to catch, has no symptoms and is spread by skin-to-skin contact of the genital area.

Most people will get a strain of HPV at some point in their lives and in around 90% of cases, will cause no problems and will resolve on its own. Around 10% of HPV infections will become persistent, putting women at risk of developing abnormal changes to cells that can go on to develop into cervical cancer.

Risk factors of progression of abnormal cells to cervical cancer:

Developing Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer usually develops relatively slowly, with the time between HPV infection and the development of pre-cancerous abnormal cells being 1-10 years and the progression to cancer being more than 10 years. It is therefore vital to catch and treat pre-cancerous cells within this time frame.

In an aim to prevent cervical cancer from developing, the NHS offers HPV vaccines to all girls and boys aged 12-13 and routinely screens women over the age of 25 for HPV with the aim to catch and treat the virus before it develops into cancer.

When To See a GP - Cervical Screening

Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. It is estimated that if every woman attended regular screening, 82.9% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented.

It is recommended that women between the ages of 25 – 64 have a routine cervical screening every five years to test for the HPV virus and detect any abnormal cells before they develop into cancer.

During the cervical screening, also known as a smear test, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix. This can also be done at home as a self test. The sample is sent to be analysed and results are usually back within 7-10 days of the sample arriving at the lab.

If the results come back negative, no HPV was detected in your sample and there is nothing you need to do until your next routine screening. If the results come back positive, this can either mean that HPV was found but no abnormal cells, or both HPV and abnormal cells have been detected. Depending on your result, you will be asked to have more regular screenings, book a follow up appointment with your GP or referred to the hospital for further testing and if required treatment.

Get started with Mayfield Clinic

Become a Mayfield Clinic member and get direct access to experienced general practitioners