Smear tests - are we too strict when it comes to using them?


In the UK, smear tests are advised for women aged 25-64. During a smear test, a sample of the cells from the cervix are taken to be looked at under a microscope for any abnormalities.

Cervical cancer is the 12th most common cancer in women in the UK and the 3rd most common genealogical cancer. Three quarters of all cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in women aged 25-64. So it makes sense that the age for regular screening begins at 25.

However, are we too quick to jump to this guideline as a reason for not giving women under 25 a smear test? I don't believe it should be a case of if a woman asks for a smear test, she should get one. I do however believe that GP's could do with taking some more time to think over their decisions regarding this.

In recent years there's been an awful lot of publicity regarding this issue, this is evident from the fact that every online Government petition I clicked on concerning this matter has been archived. And even I started out a tiny bit cynical about it. I genuinely thought people were kicking up a fuss over not a lot as in my mind they would be offered a smear test regardless of age if they presented enough symptoms for concern.

Since then I have experienced first hand just how difficult it is to be referred for a smear test. Now, I'm no hypochondriac and I definitely didn't visit my GP with any idea of needing, much less wanting, a smear test. After having the implant put in I was experiencing a lot of troubling symptoms,  but I left it for a few months blaming it all on the hormone changes in my body before giving in after enduring a 2, nearly 3, month long period.

I can't fault my GP in her initial response as she very much tried to put my mind at ease, reassuring me it was related to the implant and that the symptoms would ease after 6 months to a year of having it in. The symptoms persisted and worsened much into the second year of having the implant. So I revisited my surgery. And I did so several times afterwards trying to get an answer.

I felt as though I was going round in circles and was no closer to finding out what was going on. I was at the end of my tether, following months of pain and constant bleeding, when by pure chance I was asked to see a different GP. I took her through my history and she decided to take swabs to see if it was an infection causing it. No one had offered to do this before and I thought they would come back positive and that would be the end of it.

Going back a week later for the results she showed me that no infections had been detected and I'd readied myself for her tell me that it's just the implant. But she didn't. She gave me a smear test. Hallelujah! By this point, I felt I had no other options left and if it came back clear I was happy to forgot all about it.

If the initial GP that I saw had done swabs for infection and failing that, given me a smear test, that took only matter of minutes, then several appointment spaces could have been freed up for other people, money on prescriptions could have been saved and I could have been saved a lot of stress. But most importantly, the precancerous cells on my cervix would have been discovered earlier. Don't worry, this isn't going to the part with the sad twist. But it quite easily could have been.

I don't think the age for regular smear test screening should be lowered, I do however feel that GP's need to stop using this rule so religiously. They are quite capable of making a judgement call of when they believe a smear test might be needed and they need to trust their instincts, and to a point their patients, more.

What are your views on this topic?
Do you know anyone affect by cervical cancer?

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  1. I hate going but I go every time the letter comes through the door to remind me it's time. My mum is a nurse/midwife and has enough horror stories that I never skip a test or vaccination ever.
    But since women under 25 can contract cervical cancer and other abnormalities perhaps it needs to be offered more widely/regularly.
    There is an ongoing issue around women and not being believed in their health concerns, I read a report last year that said doctors often ignore women's concerns and consider them overreacting. That needs to change. Always ask to see another doctor.

  2. I'd glad you managed to see another doctor, it's just too scary to think what might have happened if you had to wait years before being offered a smear test! xxx