The cervical screening programme is a free screening programme that is available to all women resident in Ireland who are over the age of 25 and under 60. There is a huge amount of useful information on this scheme here, and we will try to provide some of the most relevant info here.
A smear test detects cells at the neck of your womb that have the potential to become cancerous in the future (causing cervical cancer). No screening programme is 100% effective but this system is internationally recognised as the best way to prevent cervical cancer. A smear test samples cells from the ‘transformation zone’, as represented in the diagram below.
Best of all it is completely free of charge and we are involved on the scheme here in Portmarnock GP Clinic. That means that eligible patients can get their smear done in the comfort of the surgery at a time that suits them.
Some patients are slow to sign up to the scheme so we strongly encourage all those eligible to get in touch and register to get their smear test.
We will try to answer some of the commonest questions we get asked about the scheme below.
What age do I have to be to apply to get my smear test?
All those aged between 25 and 60 are eligible.
I am under 25. Should I get a smear test?
The best evidence from multiple studies across the world advise that screening does not need to start until the age of 25. We advise our patients that it is not necessary to get screened under this age but can perform a smear if desired by the patient (we do however need to charge for smears outside of the cervical screening programme).
How long does it take to get a smear test?
It generally takes about 10 minutes and you will get a letter with your results after a few weeks. If follow up is needed you will be advised about this and a small number of patients need to go to the hospital for further follow up. This link summarises the follow up procedures very well.
How do I know if I am eligible for the scheme?
You just need to input your details here.
How bad is cervical cancer? Can it be fatal? Does it run in families?
Unfortunately cervical cancer is a very serious cancer and generally affects women in their thirties and forties. Sadly we have seen young mothers die of cervical cancer and it is almost always a preventable death through screening. Cervical cancer does not run in families and smoking is a risk factor for the development of cervical cancer.
Are there any symptoms of cervical cancer?
It may be asymptomatic but occasionally symptoms can include
- An abrupt change in your cycle-bleeding between periods or a sudden increase in the heaviness of your period
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Pain when you have sex
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Bleeding after you have been through the menopause
What about HPV infection and the link to cervical cancer?
This is a complicated topic and is very well summarised here. A HPV vaccination programme is in full swing and the goal of this is to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine does not mean that you don’t need to get your cervical smears. We have discussed this topic on this website previously and we are strong advocates for the HPV vaccination programme.
- Marie Keating Foundation (some of the above images were taken from their page on the topic)
- HPV Vaccination programme
- Cervical Check Ireland
- Cervical cancer & screening on patient.co.uk
We are happy to provide the cervical screening programme in the clinic here and if you are unsure as to whether you want to take part please get in touch. Call us on 01-8461335 or 01-08038881 or e-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org.