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Cervical screening saves lives – don't skip your smear test!

I’m very grateful to Dr Jonty for lending me his column so that I can highlight a subject vital to the health of women in Southwark – cervical screening!Zoe Williams.jpg

Just last week, Public Health England launched a new national campaign to help get people talking about, and more crucially, actually attending, cervical screening.

Also known as a ‘smear test’, cervical screening takes just a few minutes and can stop cervical cancer before it even starts. It’s not a test for cancer, but checks the health of the cervix (the opening of the womb from the vagina) and can prevent any potentially harmful, pre-cancerous cells developing.

All women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64 are invited for routine screening every three to five years, depending on their age. You’ll receive a letter in the post inviting you to make an appointment, and a follow-up reminder text from your GP surgery.

Yet around one in three people invited to screening in Southwark do not attend. That’s around 30% of people missing out on potentially life-saving check-up.

But why? Well, lots of reasons, really.

Some don’t think they’re at risk, or simply don’t know about screening. Many, however, find the idea of a smear test awkward or scary – this is particularly the case for younger women.

Research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust shows that an astonishing 80% of women aged 25 to 35 delay or do not attend screening because they are embarrassed. Of those women surveyed, 71% felt scared and 75% felt vulnerable at the thought of going.

I know it’s not the most pleasant thing to have done, and obviously we all feel a little exposed when having a test, but as GP, I want my patients to feel as comfortable as possible.

I don’t care whether you have hair down there, or your body shape, or where you’ve put your knickers. All I care about is that you’ve attended your appointment.

If you’re worried, bring someone with you for support, wear a skirt or long jumper you can leave on during the test, or just tell the GP or nurse and we can help support you. Please don’t be put off by embarrassment or discomfort.

Remember, your smear test can reduce your risk of cervical cancer. Please don’t ignore your invitation. And if you missed your last screening, just contact your GP practice to book an appointment.

Visit for more information about cervical screening.

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