Cervical screening: Miriam's experience

Date: 15 February 2021

Cervical screening was disrupted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but since summer 2020 GP surgeries have been carrying out appointments with COVID-secure measures in place. In this blog post, Miriam from York shares her experience after attending a cervical screening appointment.

Three years ago, I was invited to attend my first cervical screening appointment. I decided to attend because, although I had no symptoms of cervical cancer, I knew how important screening was in detecting very early signs. I had also seen a lot about screening on social media with celebrity endorsements and people sharing their experiences, which helped it feel more ‘normal’.

Three years on, in January 2021, I received a letter in the post to ring my GP and arrange an appointment for my second cervical screening appointment. After hearing about the effects of COVID-19 on cancer screening I was pleased to still be invited exactly three years from my first test. The letter explained the changes to cervical screening since my last test, where the sample is now checked for HPV first. I also received a short, easy-to-read leaflet which provided in-depth information about the test, including helpful diagrams.

Women aged 25 to 64 are invited for cervical screening every 3-5 years. A small sample of cells is taken from your cervix and sent to a lab for testing.

Although the letter did not mention COVID or the measures in place at my surgery, the lady I spoke with to arrange the appointment explained them to me. It was very easy to make an appointment with my GP surgery and I was able to go in the following week.

I wasn’t too worried about COVID before my appointment as I trust the NHS and know the COVID secure measures in place are reliable. When I arrived at the surgery I waited outside until the receptionist called me in. Before going in they made sure I was wearing a mask. The surgery was nearly empty, and arrows guided me in a one-way direction. In the waiting room, the chairs were set apart and social distancing was easily practised.

The nurse called me into the room and was very welcoming and friendly. She sat me down and explained the test in detail, including the process, what my sample would be tested for and what my results could be. She made me feel very comfortable and at ease and asked if I had any questions or concerns before beginning.

The test itself lasted around five seconds and the nurse continuously checked if I was comfortable. It felt a little uncomfortable but didn’t hurt and it was all over before I knew it. After the test was complete, she let me know when I could expect my results and told me to get in touch if I haven't heard anything within six weeks. Although it is always slightly worrying awaiting test results, I feel at ease knowing that if there are any issues detected, such as HPV or abnormal cells, these could be dealt with at an early stage.

Overall, I was only in the GP surgery for around 15 minutes and felt very safe and comfortable. I would encourage everyone who has been invited for screening to attend and not be put off by either COVID or the test itself.

If you think you may have missed a cervical screening appointment, get in touch with your GP surgery. 15 minutes of your time could save your life.

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