Even in a country like the UK, women are avoiding cervical exams, with many citing nervousness or embarrassment. But what are the risks?
The Huffington Post reports a worrying statistic in which one in four of the 5 million women annually invited for a cervical examination – also known as the smear test – ended up not coming.
According to a survey by the US Cervical Cancer Trust in 2018, when asked why they avoided the test, many women quoted themselves feeling scared (71%) and vulnerable (75%). Meanwhile, 81% of women say they are embarrassed by the procedure.
So why are these screenings so crucial?
Simply put, identifying abnormal cervical cells may allow doctors to contract cervical cancer in its early stages. Cervical screening is intended to identify patients who are at risk for cervical cancer by identifying abnormal cells in the cervix, most likely caused by the contraction of human papillomavirus (HPV).
These tests can save lives, so here are some facts that may persuade you to schedule your next appointment.
You can still hire HPV with the HPV vaccine.
Thirteen strains of HPV are known to be linked to cancer. However, since 2008, most vaccines generally protect only the most common "high-risk" cases of HPV, HPV16 and HPV1, which have caused seven in 10 cases of cervical cancer. Vaccines against HPV do not protect you from all types of HPV, and cervical cancer can still develop. That is why smear testing is still important.
Although the HPV vaccine is said to protect against HPV16 and HPV18, these vaccines are relatively new and Harley Street gynecologist DR Ahmed Ismail says it will take another 20 years before we can be sure of its effectiveness.
Read also: What to know about the cause, symptoms of cervical cancer
No one will judge your genitals
Many women avoid cervical exams because of the discomfort with the appearance of the genitalia. From the appearance of their vulvas to concerns about the smell, many women do not feel comfortable with the procedure.
It is important to remember, however, that these procedures are conducted by professional nurses whose jobs revolve around seeing the genitals of other people. The likelihood of them recalling a specific experience with a patient is rather low.
Your partner's sex does not leave you out.
There is a myth among women in the LGBTQ + community that their sexual orientation denies the need for defamation tests; that sex with other women does not put them at risk of infection. Because of this, many jump with a smear test completely, but is this really true?
HPV is transmitted through skin contact, so even women in non-heterosexual relationships can get HPV from other women during sex. In other words, they could still be at risk for HPV and could benefit from a smear test.
Cervical cancer is not just HPV
Most HPV infections are relatively harmless, with our immune system being able to expel the threat from our bodies within two years without generating abnormal cell growth that could lead to cancer of the cervix. If your bacilloscopy test returns negative for abnormal cell growth, it is best to schedule another bacilloscopy test in another three years.
This is due to some rare forms of cervical cancer that develop without signs of HPV. This means that abnormal cells can still grow independently even without having new sexual partners or being exposed to HPV. (ayr / kes)