No. During our lives, 4 out of 5 (80%) of us will get some type of HPV. Most of us will never know we had it. Around 90% of HPV infections clear within 2 years.
HPV is usually cleared by the body itself without treatment. For a small number of individuals, their body will not be able to get rid of HPV. Where people have a HPV infection for a long time, this can cause the cells of the cervix to change.
It normally takes many years for cervical cancer to develop from any cell changes that may happen in the cervix. Screening every five years can pick up these changes before they become cancer.
Discuss the issue with your sample taker who will assess the reasons for the pain/discomfort. One reason may be cervical atrophy, which is a shrinking of the cervix after menopause and is a normal process.
No, there is no known family link in cervical cancer unlike some other cancers, so there is no need to have tests more often.
In Wales, individuals who can have cervical screening are invited up to the age of 64. The screening programme stops then because individuals who have no HPV (human papillomavirus) at this time are very unlikely to go on to develop cervical cancer in later years.
Although cervical cancer does occur in older individuals, it is often in people who have had no screening, or who have not had enough screening tests in the past. Even if all of your past tests were normal, it is very important that you report any unusual bleeding, discharge or other symptoms to your GP. This includes:
· Bleeding after sex, between periods or after the menopause
· New or different vaginal discharge (change in colour, amount or consistency)
· Lower tummy or back pains, or pain during sex
If you have never been for a cervical screening test you can ask at your GP surgery to have one, even if you are over the age of 65.
In Wales, you are invited for cervical screening (a smear test) from age 25 until age 64. Cervical screening is not recommended for anyone under 25 years old.
Cervical cancer is very rare in the under-25s, and cervical screening hasn’t been shown to reduce cancer cases in this age group. Most cell changes in this age group will go away on their own. Screening individuals under the age of 25 can lead to treatment which may not be necessary.
If you are under 25, you will have been offered the HPV vaccine at school. If you had the vaccine, then you will have a lower chance of having HPV. You will be invited for your cervical screening test when you are due at 25 – it is still important to attend even if you have had the vaccine, as it does not protect against all types of HPV.
Even if you did not have the HPV vaccine, you still do not need a cervical screening test until the age of 25.
If you are having any symptoms, such as irregular bleeding, discharge or pain during sex, it is important that you see your GP.
Your invitation for screening usually arrives a couple of months before your 25th birthday. You can go for screening straight away – you don’t need to wait for your 25th birthday if you have had your invitation letter.
You can have cervical screening if you are aged between 25 and 64, and you have a cervix.
Cervical Screening Wales (CSW) is only able to invite individuals who are registered with their GP as female, or indeterminate/unspecified.
If you are registered as male, but have a cervix, you can still have cervical screening. You will need to arrange this with your GP practice who will be able to take your test and will send you your results.
If you are registered as female, but do not have a cervix, you do not need cervical screening. You may be invited for screening – if that happens, please ask your GP to let CSW know that you do not need screening.
Sometimes Cervical Screening Wales (CSW) does not know that you have had a hysterectomy, so they continue to invite you for screening. Your GP can inform CSW about your hysterectomy and we can then stop your screening invitations.
A hysterectomy removes the uterus (womb) and this usually includes the cervix (neck of the womb). This is called a ‘total hysterectomy’. Sometimes the cervix may be left in place – this is called a subtotal hysterectomy. If you have had a sub-total hysterectomy, you should continue having cervical screening tests as usual up to the age of 65 years. Your doctor will be able to tell you what type of hysterectomy you have had.
After a total hysterectomy you would not normally need any further screening tests. Sometimes a further screening test is recommended. Your gynaecologist will tell you if you need this.
Having cervical screening is your choice. Cervical Screening Wales has a duty to invite all eligible individuals for screening.
If you do not attend for a screening test within six months of your invitation letter, you will be sent a reminder letter. If you do not attend after your reminder letter, you will not be sent a letter for three or five years, depending on your age. You can attend for screening at any time after you have been sent an invitation.
You may be happy to be sent your invitation letters and to decide whether to attend or not, each time you are sent them.
Some individuals do not want to receive the invitation letters. If you do not want any letters about cervical screening, you can contact Cervical Screening Wales.
We will usually send you a form to fill in, because we need to be sure that you understand what might happen if you choose not to be screened.
Individuals who ask for their invitation letters to be stopped, but then later decide that they would like to have screening, can come back into the programme at any time until the age of 64 (or older if they have never been screened).
You should never feel pressured into having a screening test.