During the coronavirus pandemic, you’d absolutely be forgiven for putting routine health checks on the back burner.
Perhaps you felt scared to go to the doctor in case it exposed you to the virus, or felt that your ‘minor’ concerns weren’t as important as those dealing with emergencies.
A survey of 851 women in the first week of June found that 25% of women were worried they’d catch coronavirus having their test, while 13% thought it was best to put off going.
But, when it comes to checks like your cervical smear test, it’s important to still book an appointment and have it done.
In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, cervical screenings were cancelled or postponed at the start of lockdown. In England, although we were still encouraged to have them done, appointments may have been few and far between.
However, these screenings have resumed outside of England and appointments are becoming easier to get hold of – and across the UK we’re being prompted to book as soon as possible if we’re due a smear test.
Health Scotland said: ‘From 29 June 2020, anyone who was invited for cervical screening before the pause, and was yet to make an appointment or had their appointment cancelled, will be able to contact their GP practice to make an appointment.’
GP surgeries in England had paused sending out new letters to those due a cervical screening, but started sending these out again on 6 June. So, you’ll be notified if you’re on schedule to receive one.
It’s important to remember, though, that if you received your letter prior to lockdown and didn’t book your smear, you should book it as soon as possible.
Or, if you’ve lost or thrown away your letter, you don’t need one to book in. Simply call your GP surgery and do so.
A cervical screening is the most effective way to protect yourself against cervical cancer, and it’s important to be regularly checked (every three to five years depending on your age) to pick up any abnormalities early.
In the instance you’re experiencing symptoms such as bleeding after sex, bleeding between periods, bleeding after menopause, or unusual vaginal discharge, you do not need to wait until you’re due a routine smear. Call your GP right away.
While discomfort is one of the main reasons people put of a cervical smear (although you can speak to your practitioner to ask for a smaller speculum, extra time, or a chaperone to help ease this) at the moment the thing worrying you may be safety from coronavirus.
Most GP’s surgeries have added safety measures in place to ease your fears and keep everyone protected. This may include mandatory masks for patients and staff throughout your procedure, as well as added hand washing and sanitation.
You won’t be able to bring someone along with you or wait in the waiting room before your appointment, and you should cancel your appointment if you – or anyone in your household – is experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
If your smear test was cancelled at the start of the pandemic and you haven’t been re-invited, give your practice a call. It may be a problem with the system, and they should be happy to get an appointment made for you on request.
Cervical screening is a preventative measure that’s thought to save around 5,000 lives a year in the UK.
It’s fairly common for abnormal cells to show up in the results, which can be scary. But, this means that treatment can be undertaken to help stop these cells from becoming cancerous.
That’s why it’s so important not to put off your smear test, as the earlier these cells are detected, the better your chance of preventing cancer.
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