Tracie Miles, The Eve Appeal’s Specialist Gynaecological Cancer Information Nurse, tackles another key topical question during Cervical Screening Awareness Week:
Why do I need to wait until I'm 25 to have a smear on the NHS?
Women in the UK are invited to have their first smear at the age of 25.
The chances of a woman developing cervical cancer before the age of 25 is phenomenally rare, and it is now understood that smears in the young generally cause more harm than good.
The main problem with having a smear at a young age is that the cells on the cervix are still developing, and are susceptible to harmless infections and often look unusual under a microscope. Any abnormality, however innocent, prompts the laboratory to call the woman for a follow-up check. This involves a vaginal examination and this test is much harder to tolerate in the very young.
Jade Goody famously was reported to have had an unpleasant experience when she was nearly a teenager and that caused her to avoid her smear at the age when it was important. Treating cellular changes in very young women can cause harm to future fertility and there is little evidence to support the notion that early treatment is significantly better than waiting until the age of 25. The point is that the cellular changes of cancer take at least 10, if not 20 years, to occur and there is harm in treating very young women.
So we implore women to attend regular screening once you’ve turned 25; whether you're a parent taking responsibility for your daughter's health or a woman in her early 50s and 60s, because at The Eve Appeal we know that regular screening protects women against developing cervical cancer.