The NHS have started emphasising that it's your choice
Smear tests aren’t exactly the most comfortable way to pass five minutes, or so, but most of us go to them every three years anyway to detect any pre-cancerous cells early and prevent cervical cancer. According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust charity, cervical screenings prevent around 75% of cervical cancer.
But, some have noticed that the NHS literature on the subject is emphasising that it’s a woman’s choice. In a recent change, the NHS have reinforced the notion that attending your advised cervical screening is totally up to you, rather than it being seriously advised.
And, since the change, with words like ‘Your Choice’ and ‘helping you decide’ included in the cervical screening booklets, there’s been a decrease in the number of women attending smear tests.
We’ve already debunked this cervical cancer myth and reported on the woman, who died of cervical cancer at 24, whose remaining family are hoping to lower the age of cervical screenings to avoid other families going through what they did, so why are we talking about it again now?
Well, apparently, more than a quarter of young women feel too shy or embarrassed to go for a smear test, with a high percentage of those not wanting to undress in front of hospital staff.
The issue that is proving controversial now is whether the NHS should be emphasising the importance of these tests more than they already are. The booklet reads: ‘It is your choice whether to have a cervical screening test or not. This leaflet aims to help you decide.’
So, what exactly is a screening test? It’s basically a test to find a disease you didn’t know about (compared to a diagnostic which explains why you’re having certain symptoms.)
The risks include receiving a ‘false positive’ which mean a diagnosis of abnormal cells in your cervix (when its actually fine) that can lead to unnecessary treatment and stress – but the benefits to preventing cervical cancer also weigh up.
Tracie Miles, former head of the National Forum of Gynaecological Oncology Nurses told Marie Claire: ‘This September, to mark Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, The Eve Appeal and Sylk Intimate are campaigning together to encourage women to take control of their gynaecological health. Early detection is key to saving lives; that’s why it’s so important that women attend when invited for their cervical smear. It will pick up pre cancer or early cancer cells, enabling successful treatments, and preventing cancer from developing at a much later stage.’