How to keep your cervix healthy
Now there is a title you might not have searched for before. Chances are you know how to keep your heart, skin and hair healthy, but do you know how to keep your cervix healthy?
In this blog, we are going to give you the low down on all things to do with your cervix. From where to find it, what it does to what can go wrong. We also want to share some tips to keep this part of your body healthy.
We also interviewed Hollie. Hollie had an abnormal result on her smear test and had to have. You can read her real-life story below.
What is a cervix?
The cervix is located at the top of the vagina and is the opening to the womb. Sometimes the cervix can be called the neck of the womb. The role of the cervix is to be like the gatekeeper of the womb. It helps to keep bacteria out and it also changes position to protect or facilitate a pregnancy. You can find out more about your Cervix and how to keep it healthy on the NHS website
How do you keep your cervix healthy?
Go for your smear tests
When you reach the grand age of 25, you will get a letter from the doctor inviting you for a smear test. This test is painless and quick. Yes, you have to take your knickers off, lie on the bed with your knees open. But honestly, it isn’t bad.
I’ve always had nurses that are lovely and chatty. So much so that I was distracted for the whole thing. If you are nervous about it, try not to put it off but instead talk to the nurse beforehand. Explain why you are nervous.
During the test the nurse will take a swab of cells from your cervix. These will be tested in a lab to check there are no abnormalities. The results should come back within 4 weeks of having the test.
If there are any abnormalities then you will be invited back for a simple procedure. We hear from Hollie about this later in the blog.
Between the ages of 25 and 49 you will be invited to be screened every 3 years. When you reach 50 to 64 you will have them every 5 years. After that, you only have one if your last three tests were abnormal.
If you are pregnant then you will have to come back after you have had the baby.
It is a really important screening. Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer in young females. Some of the symptoms you might not connect with cervical cancer, or even notice. If you are nervous about it, please talk to the nurse.
Practice safe sex
According to American Cancer Society, condoms can reduce the rate of HPV infection by around 70%. The HPV virus is common, however in some people it can cause genital warts or cancer. You can get it from vaginal, anal or oral sex and sharing sex toys.
There is a vaccine for this now which is suitable up until the age of 26. They actually give it to teens at school. If you missed out on this vaccine, be safe!
There are actually foods you can eat to help improve the health of your cervix. Here are a few we think are easy to include in your daily diet:
Butternut Squash – this contains beta-carotene. It makes the immune system strong and helps to lower the risk of cancer. Eat this roasted and cubed in a salad or blended into a winter soup.
Pink Grapefruit – Pink grapefruit contains lycopene. Lycopene has been used as an option for treatment for those with a HPV infection. Squeeze pink grapefruit into a refreshing juice.
Broccoli – Broccoli really is a powerhouse. We love it. It contains the B vitamin folate which is fantastic to ensure the health of the reproductive system. Roast it on a salad. Boil it. Eat it raw. Put it on a pizza. Blend it into a juice…
Avoid perfumed soaps and douching
In a blog, vaginal hygiene 101 we shared the best and safest ways to clean and look after your vagina. In it, we mention that you should avoid perfumed soaps and douching. This can cause irritation in the cervix and upset the natural PH of your vagina.
Were you nervous ahead of your smear test?
I was definitely nervous before I had my first one – I feel like you hear lots of horror stories about it and it’s just not a nice thing to think about, but the anticipation is definitely worse than the actual procedure!
How many smear tests have you had?
I’ve had them every year since the first one because of the abnormal results, so 6 or so. I actually think of myself as pretty lucky to get them so regularly, because if anything was wrong it’d likely be picked up early.
How long before you got the results?
A week or two. It was scary getting the ‘abnormal result’ letter – that heart-sinking feeling. The letter does explain the result, and lets you know that it’s nothing to worry about, but your mind does run away with you.
What was the process after you had the abnormal result?
For me, I was asked to make an appointment for a colposcopy at my local hospital, which is where they take a small biopsy of the cervix tissue.
Having the biopsy done felt a tiny bit more uncomfortable than a smear test, but only a little bit and it was also very quick. In the first couple of colposcopy results I had shown ‘low-grade’ changes, which were nothing to worry about.
At the third colposcopy, the results came back with ‘high-grade’ changes and that is when I had to go for an LLETZ procedure. This was a separate appointment a few weeks later where they remove the abnormal cells.
The appointment was slightly longer for me, as I had the coil which they had to remove before doing the procedure. I’m not going to lie – this procedure was definitely more uncomfortable than a smear test, but it didn’t take long.
Do you have any advice for someone with an abnormal smear result going through the procedure?
It can feel scary but try and focus on how lucky we are to have a service where we are checked regularly and can get treatment quickly – focusing on that helped me be brave and go through with it.
Do you have to have more smear tests now?
I have them every year.
Final thoughts from Our Remedy
If you are nervous about having a smear test, or worried about anything, chat with your doctor or nurse. They should be able to help put your mind at ease and run any necessary tests.