Dr Dawn Harper has made history by choosing to have a smear test done live on TV’s This Morning programme in a promotion to urge other females to go to their important screening appointments. This was done as part of the #NoFearGoSmear campaign.
Figures indicate that although smear tests save the lives of more than 4500 women each year, at least one third of those under the age of 35 refuse to have one.
Dr Harper said those women between the ages of 25 and 49 should have a smear test every three years. Thereafter, women should have them every five years until they reach the age of 65, unless they experience abnormalities.
The best time to go for the test is during mid-cycle as bleeding may give a distorted result, which means it may be necessary to have the test done again. Results are normally available within two to three weeks.
The campaign was initiated due to the charity, The Eve Appeal, asking women to become more aware about gynaecological cancers as the national awareness month commences.
A survey undertaken by the charity has found that less than 25% of women aged 16 to 25 years stated their confidence regarding information surrounding gynaecological health issues, compared to 42% of those aged between 66 and 75.
The charity is currently campaigning in a bid to raise awareness and aid young women in the embarrassment regarding the issues.
The study found that more than 10% of women in the 16 to 35 year age group said they found it difficult to discuss gynaecological health with their GP. Almost 33% said they avoided doctor’s visits about gynaecological issues as they were too embarrassed.
The figures decreased significantly in older age groups.
It is possible to obtain a free cervical screening test on the NHS if you fall into the 25 to 64 year age group. The test is not for cervical cancer, but it can indicate if there are abnormalities which may lead to cancer if it is left untreated.
The test is not routinely offered to those under the age of 25 as cervical cancer is extremely rare in women that young. Cancer Research UK statistics have not shown any deaths due to cervical cancer in the under-20 age group between 2009 and 2011.
The age level was increased from 20 after the Advisory Committee on Cervical Cancer Screening advised the NHS during 2003 that screening in younger females did more harm than good.
The committee stated that abnormalities in the cells of younger females normally disappeared on their own. They added that sending young women for more tests and treatments increased the chances of them having premature delivery if they decided to become pregnant and may increase the level of anxiety.
Other countries, including Ireland, Belgium, France and Italy, offer screening from the age of 25. In Scotland, the age is 20, however, it is set to be raised to 25.
Women in Australia are invited to screening from the age of 18, in Greece from the age of 20 and in the US, two years after becoming sexually active.
There are other countries that commence screening much later. In Finland and the Netherlands, women are only screened at the age of 30 and both these countries have low mortality rates for cervical cancer. In Bulgaria, screening commences at the age of 31.
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