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Smear test myths: BUSTED

Time to bust some myths...

There’s a lot of confusion about smear tests, so let’s clear the air.

MYTH 1 – you don’t need to have a cervical smear if you’re not having sex

If you’ve had sex then you should have regular screenings. Even if you’re not currently sexually active, you should still attend your smear test, because the risk of cervical cancer comes through HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus. However, if you’ve never had sex, then the risk is very low, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you could still have a chat with your doctor or practice nurse when you receive the invitation, and talk about your circumstances. Also, because cancer can still happen to anyone, it’s probably best to feel reassured, so make sure you never ignore an invitation to take a smear test, get in touch, and talk to your health care providers.

MYTH 2: You don’t need a smear test if you’re a lesbian

Is HPV a ‘man virus’ thing? Do they pass it on to us? Or should lesbians get themselves checked out and screened too? Well, turns out that HPV is not a ‘man thing’, although the risk is lower, HPV can still be transmitted between women, so, sorry lesbians, you are still at risk. Even if you’ve have never had sex with a man. It’s a low-risk, but a risk nonetheless, so yes, lesbians should get screened.

MYTH 3: there are no signs of cervical cancer

True or false, are there signs to look out for which could help show warnings of cervical cancer? Both – true and false. There are a few things to look out for, for instance, if you are persistently bleeding after sex or experiencing irregular bleeds, like spotting, between your periods, that’s definitely something you should go and see your doctor about. Also, if you experience any unusual discharges, perhaps if they are offensive in smell, or blood-stained, go and get that checked out. Finally, if you’re experiencing discomfort when you have sex, that’s another thing to add to the list. However, because an early cancer doesn’t tend to exhibit symptoms, if you don’t experience any of the above, it’s still always best to get checked out. So when you get your invitation to go for a smear test, pick up that phone and book it in!

Find out more at the NHS cervical screening programme.

Good advice for lesbians and bisexuals here.

What is HPV and how does it cause cervical cancer?