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Women's health

Is this the norm for smear tests now?

32 replies

HalfTermHalfTerm · 14/01/2021 16:12

I had my second cervical screening test just after Christmas. The odds of anything being amiss are very low as I had the HPV vaccine before I started having sex, but both times I’ve had the letter through I’ve booked an appointment straight away to be on the safe side.

I got the results letter through the post, telling me that I’ve tested negative for HPV, so they don’t need to look for abnormal cells on my cervix. I’m a bit confused by this as I thought looking for abnormal cells was the point of a smear test? I could have told them that I would test negative for HPV!

I believe that there are still a small percentage of cases of cervical cancer (about 3%?) that aren’t caused by HPV, so I was under the impression that they still looked for abnormal cells. Am I mistaken or have my local nhs trust just gone rogue?

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Sway19 · 14/01/2021 16:13

Covid times I’m afraid

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Housebuyer2021 · 14/01/2021 16:15

Yes this is the new way they do them. Concerning for me because my smear before this was the way of doing it there were ‘changes’ so I was recalled for another which then only said I was negative. So no idea how my cells are now.

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Molehillfromamountain · 14/01/2021 16:17

Assuming you are in UK (Not NI yet I don't think) it is the norm now. Not just due to Covid, it's been like that a couple of years I think.

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TisTheSeasonToBe · 14/01/2021 16:18

Nothing to do with covid.

This was changed before covid and is ridiculous!
Also happened when the backlog became huge...because a private service took over and couldn’t cope!

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OwlWearingGlasses · 14/01/2021 16:18

I believe abnormal cells on their own aren't a concern unless HPV present too. It's HPV that causes cervical cancer.

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HalfTermHalfTerm · 14/01/2021 16:18

@Sway19

Covid times I’m afraid

Oh, maybe? The nurse didn’t mention anything about it being affected by Covid. We both wore masks, but other than that I didn’t think it would be any different!
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pingu777 · 14/01/2021 16:18

I had the HPV vaccine before I started having sex, but still tested positive for HPV last year so it's not a guarantee. I had to have an extra smear this year (which they booked in really quickly) to confirm that I no longer had HPV, which luckily I didn't.

I don't think having the vaccine is a definite preventative and presume that if I was still testing positive they would continue to monitor for any abnormal cells.

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HalfTermHalfTerm · 14/01/2021 16:21

@pingu777

I had the HPV vaccine before I started having sex, but still tested positive for HPV last year so it's not a guarantee. I had to have an extra smear this year (which they booked in really quickly) to confirm that I no longer had HPV, which luckily I didn't.

I don't think having the vaccine is a definite preventative and presume that if I was still testing positive they would continue to monitor for any abnormal cells.

That’s useful to know, thank you. I believe there are different strains? I’m pleased you got a positive result with your most recent smear!

I will keep going as long as I keep getting invited, I’m fortunate enough to not find the screening overly unpleasant or uncomfortable. I was just surprised!
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MrsRosiieP · 14/01/2021 16:22

I also had the HPV vaccine when I was 14 and tested positive HPV at my last smear. Always better to test!

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cricketmum84 · 14/01/2021 16:22

Nothing to do with Covid. Had my last one 2 years ago and the nurse explained this was the new way of doing it.

I'll admit it doesn't sit quite right with me either. I'd rather the cells were properly checked like in the "old days"

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WhydoesItAlwaysRainMe · 14/01/2021 16:24

Yes I had the same letter after my smear a couple of years ago

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Angel2702 · 14/01/2021 16:28

Yes has been for a while now. They were going to trial sending home HPV test kits out last I heard big assume that’s been cancelled now due to covid.

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SquirtleSquad · 14/01/2021 16:34

Yep, I've had 3 in the last 13 months and that's what j was told at each.

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MarisPiper92 · 14/01/2021 16:37

Not to hijack, but you can now buy (regulated/approved) home HPV tests, which are much less intrusive than smears. Just a thought for anyone who struggles with them (I certainly do).

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HalfTermHalfTerm · 14/01/2021 16:43

@MarisPiper92

Not to hijack, but you can now buy (regulated/approved) home HPV tests, which are much less intrusive than smears. Just a thought for anyone who struggles with them (I certainly do).

Not a hijack at all! Smile
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MarisPiper92 · 14/01/2021 16:47

Thanks! The home tests only check for HPV and not abnormal cells, which is why I always assumed a smear was more comprehensive. Didn't realise they were only checking HPV as well.

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Coffeeandaride · 14/01/2021 16:50

Its nothing to do with covid. The HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all strains of HPV and so it is still possible to get it.

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yarncakes · 14/01/2021 19:23

Yep that's the case even though my doctor said they still check for both hpv and cells as well but I don't even think she was aware they no longer do that (I'm in Wales. Same for England now too I believe).

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MsConstrue · 14/01/2021 19:25

I didn't know that. I had a test on the NHS in Dec and got this letter back, but a couple of years ago I had a private test and they still test for all kinds of abnormal cells. I wonder what the risks are from only testing for HPV cells - I know they cause the majority of cervical cancer, but maybe not all?

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MotherQueenXeno · 15/01/2021 07:38

In my understanding, the type of cervical cancer that is not caused by HPV wouldn't be detected on a smear test anyway, therefore your risk of cancer if you are HPV negative is incredibly low. I'm not a medic though.

I find smear tests very very difficult and had considered getting the home HPV test instead.

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MarisPiper92 · 15/01/2021 09:29

@MotherQueenXeno The home test is just a swab, much easier than a speculum and scrapy thing. When I did it it cost around £50, which for me was definitely worth it but realise it isn't cheap.

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yarncakes · 15/01/2021 15:59

I think the reason I find smear test would be better is because if they found that you are hpv positive then they can check the cells whereas if you just use a standard vaginal swab to have an hpv test done and it turns out positive, you'd need to get a smear test done any way to see whether you have abnormal cells.

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Royalty2k · 17/01/2021 21:44

[quote MarisPiper92]@MotherQueenXeno The home test is just a swab, much easier than a speculum and scrapy thing. When I did it it cost around £50, which for me was definitely worth it but realise it isn't cheap.[/quote]
Was it easy to do?

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Royalty2k · 17/01/2021 21:46

Yes they test for HPV first, if it is negative then no further testing is done
I'm considering getting the HPV test from Superdrug for this reason

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MarisPiper92 · 18/01/2021 08:18

@Royalty2k yes, it was fine. Just make sure you read through instructions a couple of times and can be undisturbed for five minutes. Hardest part was making sure the swab got into the vial without touching anything else!

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