Cervical Screening Awareness Week launched today (Monday, June 20) and runs until Sunday, June 26.
And Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is one of the organisations answering questions and providing information to people attending their test for the first time, or those who find cervical screening difficult.
As well as sharing a number of tips to help people with their cervical screening appointments, Jo’s Trust is also focusing on some of the reasons why screening can be hard – including embarrassment, pain and work commitments.
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The test at a cervical screening appointment typically takes a few minutes; a nurse will use a speculum to see inside your cervix, then take a sample of cells from your cervix using a small brush.
Here are some of the charity’s tips to make cervical screening better for you:
Speak to a medical professional
If you have any concerns about the test, you could try discussing them with your doctor or nurse beforehand.
Jo’s Trust said: “If it is your first cervical screening, you feel embarrassed or worried, you have had a bad experience before, or you have experienced anything that makes the test hard for you, telling the person doing the test means they can try to give you the right support.”
Request a longer appointment, or the first appointment of the day
Having the first appointment of the day means there should be less time for you to wait beforehand, and there may also be less people in the waiting room.
If you feel like you would benefit from having more time to prepare – or time after the test to process – you could inquire with your GP surgery about a double appointment.
Take someone with you
Some surgeries and health centres may still have restrictions in place due to Covid-19 – but you could ask about taking a partner or friend into the appointment with you for support.
If this is not possible, you could also ask if another member of staff could serve as a chaperone for your screening appointment.
Wear a dress or skirt, if you feel comfortable to do so
At your cervical screening, a nurse will give you a private space to undress from the waist down, usually behind a curtain.
This is necessary so the test can be carried out.
If you are wear a dress or skirt to the appointment, you may be able to keep this on and just remove your underwear.
This could help you feel more covered and comfortable.
The charity’s tips won’t be appropriate for everyone, and it make take some time to find what’s comfortable to you.
Other pointers issued by Jo’s Trust include; asking for a doctor or nurse of a particular gender, asking the medical professional to use a smaller speculum or asking if you can insert it yourself.
You could also visit a specialist cervical screening clinic instead of your GP, or ask to be referred to your local colposcopy department to have your test instead.
For more information, visit Jo’s Trust online. The charity also offers a free helpline on 0808 802 8000.