Dr. Rosemary Leonard answers a question on cervical screening in the company of Emma Howard.
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Emma Howard: Hello! We are answering questions on health and medical problems. I am joined by Dr. Rosemary Leonard. Rosemary, hello! Dr. Rosemary Leonard: Hello! Emma Howard: We have got a question from a young lady wanting advice about cervical screening. Now, she says she is 25, she is perfectly fit, and yet she is received this invitation from the GPs, which all young women get these days, and old women too, but she thinks it's unfit and healthy, do I really need to go? Dr. Rosemary Leonard: It depends whether she has had sex. If she has never been sexually active, then actually there is no reason for her to go for cervical smear test, and she would find it quite painful. But we now know that cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus, the Human Papillomavirus, which is sexually transmitted. You only need one partner to pick up HPV, and it's a very, very infectious virus that transfers from skin to skin. And in some people it can slowly cause the changes that gradually lead to cervical cancer, which is the whole point of the cervical screening program, because you can pick up these changes early, have treatment, and then you haven't got a problem. So it really does prevent cervical cancer. I know a lot of women are worried about the process of having a smear test, but if you explain that it's the first one you have ever had, the nurse or the doctor who is doing it will do their best to put you at your ease, and it shouldn't be painful. It shouldn't even be uncomfortable. Emma Howard: And if you are shy about the sex, if it's going to be a male doctor, you can ask for a woman doctor, there is often somebody else present in the room. Dr. Rosemary Leonard: Yes. And nurses. In a lot of surgeries, routine cervical smears are done by nurses who are very sympathetic, and as I say, will really explain the procedure to you. And yes, you have to have an internal examination for it, but that shouldn't hurt. Emma Howard: They are usually very comfortable on the whole. Dr. Rosemary Leonard: Yes, yes, and it really can help to save your life. Emma Howard: And how often should women have this kind of screening? Dr. Rosemary Leonard: Well, it's changing according to your age, but generally younger women should have a smear test done once every three years, and then once you get passed 40, assuming that you have never had an abnormal smear, then you have them done once every five years. But if you ever have an abnormal smear, you need to have the smear test done more often, but you can be advised on that according to the results. Emma Howard: Good advice. Thank you Rosemary. If you have a similar problem, we hope we might have given you some help. But remember, it's always best to go and see your own doctor for medical advice. Thanks for watching. We will be back with more health questions and answers.