Oops: less than 5 in 10 women have a smear made

Fortunately, there are also alternatives.

Less than half

Fewer than 5 in 10 women in the 30-60 age group who receive an invitation have a Pap smear, according to the figures of the most recent population survey. Every year about 800 women get cervical cancer and as many as 200 die. Nevertheless, the number of participants in the population screening is decreasing. Where previously 6 in 10 women had a Pap smear, in 2020 there were less than 5 in 10. In fact, in the category 30 to 35 years it was even less than 40%. And that while as a young woman you also run the risk of developing cervical cancer, know Susan (31).

Lower Threshold

Various organizations are trying to lower the threshold to the GP and to encourage women to have a smear taken after all. That’s how KWF with the campaign ‘The appointment you don’t want to miss’ and has Olive Foundation a European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week established from 17 to 23 January.

HPV virus

Cervical cancer is usually caused by an infection with the HPV virus. As many as 80% of people worldwide become infected with this. The virus can be transmitted through sexual contact, even through skin contact. Men can also get and transmit the virus. Usually the body clears the virus on its own, but if this does not happen and if you remain infected for longer, you have a high risk of cervical cancer, labia cancer, anus cancer or throat cancer.

Complaints or not

So something you want to be there on time. That is why a Pap smear is vital. Even if there are no complaints, you are often still very early on and cervical cancer is still treatable. In case of complaints such as blood loss between menstrual periods or after sex, or discharge that looks different than normal, a smear is also necessary. Outside the five-year population screening, you can make an appointment with your GP in between.

Alternative: the self-test

In short, smears are very necessary and useful. Many women know that. So what’s stopping many of us from going? There is still a lot of embarrassment and fear surrounding the Pap smear. Fortunately, there are solutions for that. For women who find it annoying to have a Pap smear made at the GP, there is a HPV Self-Test. This only checks for the presence of the virus. After taking the test at home, you send it to the lab, where it will be checked for HPV. Does that show you have the virus? Then further investigation follows. Fortunately, 9 out of 10 women do not have the HPV virus and you are ready after your self-sampling.

HPV vaccination

There is also the HPV vaccination. The HPV vaccine works best if you have not yet been infected with the virus. That is why girls and boys will receive an invitation for vaccination from 2022 in the year that they turn 10. They will then receive 2 vaccinations. After six months, they receive an invitation for the second (last) injection. Boys and girls aged 15 to 18 need 3 injections for good protection.

Is that a solution for women who are afraid of the Pap smear? Not that. A vaccine never protects 100%, which is why it is important to still participate in the cervical cancer population screening. However, the vaccine does reduce the chance of infection with the HPV virus and can therefore prevent many annoying tests.

Source: RIVM, RIVM, Olive.

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