Health & Wellbeing

HPV and Cervical Screenings: Let’s Talk About It

I attended my first cervical screening back in 2017, a day before my 25th birthday. Yes, I’m THAT person who didn’t want to wait an extra second longer than I had to to have it done. Since then, I’ve been talking about my experience of colposcopy, HPV and cervical screenings and ‘doing my bit’ so to speak to try and encourage more women to go for their smears and also try and normalize the conversation around the HPV virus.

HPV and Cervical Screenings

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

British YouTuber Zoe Sugg recently posted a video of her attending a LIVE smear test on her channel, along with a chat with the nurse about some common questions she gets asked surrounding cervical screenings. I thought this was a great video. With a platform as big as hers, there’s no doubt she’s opened a dialogue.

But what I wanted to focus on today, was HPV and cervical screenings. Most people know what a cervical screening is but I feel like there’s not the same conversation around the HPV virus, what it is and what it can cause.

PSA before we continue: I’m not a medical professional and all information in this post is based off of my own experience, my body and my own research. If you have any problems or worries, you should contact your GP. I have HPV and here’s what I’ve learnt about it over the years.

Cervical Screenings

Firstly, what IS HPV?

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a group of common viruses and are spread and shared through penetrative sex, oral sex, sharing sex toys or any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area of anyone who’s got the virus. It’s the most common STD.

There are over 100 different strains of the HPV virus. Some strains cause foot warts, hand warts, genital warts and others can contribute towards different cancers, including cervical cancer. But a lot of people will have HPV and never know about it because it never causes any symptoms and leaves the body on its own.

What’s my deal with HPV and cervical screenings?

Back when I was around 16/17 and had my first “proper” boyfriend, I developed genital warts. I didn’t know they were a form of HPV at the time. All I knew is they were annoying and hurt like HELL to get removed (like, imagine sticking your fanny to the arctic circle).

Obviously I now know that genital warts were caused by a low-risk strain of HPV. Genital warts are crap. But they’re not dangerous. It was then when I got my results back from my first cervical screening that I found out I still had HPV – but the high-risk strain, which can cause cell changes in the cervix and lead to cervical cancer, if not found and treated.

How can I protect myself against HPV?

HPV is such a common STD that it’s almost impossible to protect yourself fully, unless you haven’t had any form of sex before. Practicing safe sex is always worth doing, especially with a new partner or during casual sex. It’s also worth getting the HPV vaccine if you’re able and haven’t already.

I had the vaccine when I was in school so it’s important to remember that having the vaccine doesn’t make you immune to high-risk HPV entirely – as is the case with me. But it still reduces the risk. When I was at school, it was only girls that had the vaccine but from September 2019, both boys and girls are offered it in school.

A boy can carry a high-risk strain of HPV and then pass it on to a girl. Of course a strain which can cause cervical cancer or cervical cell changes in a girl won’t have any symptoms in a boy, so he’ll never know he’s got it. But he can still pass it on to someone who could be affected. If you didn’t have the vaccine in school, you can have it done at your GP up until you’re 25.

And the main thing?

Have your cervical screening. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your health as a female. There is no other test for HPV. The only way to find out if you have it and are at higher risk of cervical changes, is by having your cervical screening.

As with me, if they find you have HPV, then you’ll be sent for a colposcopy. A test which enables them to take a closer look at the cervix and to see the extent of abnormal cells (if any), whether treatment is required and what the next steps will be.

99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by infection with a high-risk strain of HPV. So staying on top of it is so important, I really can’t stress it enough. Cervical screenings aren’t easy for everyone for a variety of reasons. If nerves and anxiety is stopping you, check out this post about tackling your smear fear.

HPV

A final word on HPV and cervical screenings

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and STD’s and the topic around them aren’t looked at too positively. The words dirty, slag, unclean or gross might come to mind about someone who’s had or has had a STD. Because that’s just society! But HPV is SO COMMON. And it’s not talked about nearly enough.

Most people will have a strain (or more) of HPV at some point in their lives. And never know about it. But the more we do know about it and talk about it, the safer for everyone. HPV and cervical screenings come hand in hand and knowledge is power. Having HPV doesn’t make you dirty or unclean or unsafe.

Have you had your cervical screening and do you have any experience of HPV? Did you know about HPV before reading this post? And do you think it should be spoken about more?

HPV and Cervical Screenings Pin

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Jenny in Neverland

Twenty-something lifestyle blogger from Essex. Book lover, Slytherin, organisational wizard and enjoys Motorsport, Disney and Yoga.

77 Comments

  1. This is such an informative post and one that really needs to be out there! 🙂

    Sarah 🌺 || Boxnip || Latest Post

  2. You’ve prompted me to get my next one booked in as I’m overdue so thank you for that, so important!

    1. I’m so glad! x

  3. As someone who had to have pre-cancerous cells removed it infuriates me that women just don’t go for their screenings!

    1. Sorry to hear that but I totally agree with you – it’s infuriating actually x

  4. This is such an important post and I’m happy to see more awareness being made on this subject.

    https://littlemissmelanie.com/

    1. Thank you 😌

  5. They are SO important, not the nicest to get done, but would 100% recommend doing it!

    Erin || MakeErinOver

    1. Totally x

  6. I panicked so hard when the doctors first sent me my “invite”. I’m a catastrophist by nature. But I braved it and it was fine, luckily. I take the stance that the couple minutes awkwardness and twinge (for me, anyway), is definitely worth preventing the worst case scenario!

    1. Oh absolutely I don’t really understand ANY other stance!

  7. This is a great post and a really good reminder. I have HPV and get a screen every year since i was 21. Ive always had womesn problems 🙁

    1. Ah no! At least you’re taking the right precautions!

  8. I had the vaccine in school too, and even though I had some really bad side effects, I would never not have it!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

    1. It’s really important to have x

  9. I think it’s absolutely crazy that the HPV vaccine has only recently become available for males. I had my screening recently and it was nowhere near as bad as you think it’s going to be – even though it took longer than it should have done using multiple speculums (I have a wonky womb, apparently!) it was still absolutely fine and much better than risking it.

  10. I applaud you for talking so openly about your experience! I had really bad anxiety around cervical cancer and like you the second I got my letter I was straight on the phone to book it! It’s so important to go for regular screenings – so many women still don’t go out of embarrassment and talking about it openly will hopefully encourage more to go xx

  11. This is such a powerful post, well done you for being so brave and candid about your experience.
    Hopefully this helps to raise lots of awareness!
    Rosie

  12. I wish this vaccine had been around when I was younger because I would have had it! I’ll have that image over the article circle all night now! LOL!

    1. You can still get it now 😌 and whoops – sorry! 😂😂

  13. I had the vaccine done at boots years ago and also go for regular smear tests xx

    1. That’s great to hear x

  14. Great reminder that we need to normalise talking about these difficult and uncomfortable topics!

    1. Thank you! Totally agree x

  15. It is so important for us to have open, honest conversation about women’s health issues like this. You’re right, not enough people really know what the HPV virus is, what the risks are and what options are available.

    1. Agreed. It’s nothing to be ashamed about!

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