I’ve had the cervical cancer jab. Do I still have to go for a smear test?

needle-webGirls in Scotland, aged 12-18 are being offered a cervical cancer vaccine.  You can find out more on the website, fight cervical cancer.  Does this protect you from all types of cervical cancer?  It does protect you from most (about 70%), but not all (there is more information here).   So, even if you have had the vaccine you should still attend your smear test appointment.  In Scotland, women are offered a smear test every three years from the age of 20.

The vaccine works if you have it before you first have sex (which is why it is being given to girls aged 12-13 years). If you are sexually active should you still have the vaccine?  Yes.  If you are sexually active you may, have picked up an HPV virus, as it is very common but it is still worth getting the vaccine, because there are many types of HPV. The vaccine protects your from HPV 16 and 18. If you already have the HPV virus, the vaccine won’t help fight it off, so you need to make sure you go for regular smear tests (once you are 20 years old). Remember, women in Scotland over 26 aren’t vaccinated at all, so don’t worry too much, just make sure you get a smear test.

In the Grampian area in 2007-2008 around 80% of women attended their appointment for a smear test. This number has been dropping, it used to be nearer 90%, this means that around 18,000 women in Grampian did not go for a smear test despite being invited. At the moment, the best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer is to go for your smear test and go to any follow-up appointments you may be invited too. It’s not a perfect system, but it is a lot better than nothing, the screening program saves about 1000 lives a year in the UK.

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