Everything is up in the air right now. Our work schedules have changed, our social plans have been cancelled, everyone is focusing on being sensible, hygienic and safe.
But it’s still important to think about other aspects of our health – particularly those of us who have regular smear tests to prevent and detect cervical cancer.
All the headlines are emphasising just how much pressure the NHS is under, and that is only set to worsen in the coming weeks. All non-urgent operations have now been postponed for three months.
So, where does that leave your smear test or any follow-up treatment you might have scheduled?
Jana Abelovska, lead pharmacist and medical advisor at Click Pharmacy says you should stick to your appointments and your schedules for smear tests regardless of the current health crisis.
As long as you are currently not showing coronavirus symptoms, of course.
‘The NHS is currently being pushed to its limits, however most smear tests are undertaken within a GP surgery by a practice nurse, so shouldn’t affect the wards and staff treating coronavirus,’ Jana said.
‘However, of course at this stage it’s uncertain whether surgery staff will be pulled into the hospitals, so keeping up-to-date with the NHS news is imperative.
‘Women should not feel as though they are taking up room, they can’t book an appointment, or they shouldn’t attend, especially those who have been found with a high abnormal cell count or any other abnormality and are due to visit the hospital for treatment.’
Why smear tests are so important
Cervical screening checks for:
- Abnormal cell changes in your cervix – left untreated, this could turn into cancer
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – some types of HPV can lead to cell changes in your cervix and cancer
What is HPV?
HPV is the name for a very common group of viruses.
You can get it from any kind of skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, not just from penetrative sex.
Most people will get some type of HPV during their lives.
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by infection with certain types of HPV.
Finding cell changes early means they can be monitored or treated.
This means they do not get a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
At the minute, Jana says all appointments and treatments are still going ahead as usual.
‘If you are unsure or concerned, I would advise you to get in contact with your surgery or GP and see what their latest guidelines are,’ she adds. ‘However it should be noted that these guidelines may change day by day or hour by hour, due to NHS updates.’
So it’s important to follow the guidelines every day if you are expecting to go for a smear test or due follow-up treatment, such as a colposcopy, or the removal of abnormal cells in a hospital.
If you’re asymptomatic, attending your appointment shouldn’t be a problem – at the moment. Just take care to wash your hands thoroughly after being at the GP surgery or hospital, and continue to be smart about social distancing.