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. A really really important topic. I can’t quite get my head around the not going thing.

    My Mum had cancer and I would be tested for EVERY type of cancer if I could, probably weekly!!

    Great, informative post Jenny, thank you for sharing x

    1. I can’t get my head around it either tbh x

  2. Thank you for such a frank and honest post on this. Female sexual health is so important considering you can’t see most of what’s going on down there but it’s something we shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about!

    Ashleigh | http://www.ashmosphere.com

    1. Agreed – it’s still so taboo and I don’t know why! x

  3. Neat post! I love how you are joining in and talking about little things like this that often remain behind closed lips.

    1. Thank you x

  4. I was the first group of girls to get the HPV vaccine in my last year of primary school. I think it’s great that they are beginning to give it to boys too.

    I haven’t had a cervical screening yet, but after having a copper IUD inserted (and removed because it was a nightmare) I think I should be good to go!

    I definitely think it ought to be spoken about more.

    Thanks for a great post!

    1. Oh you should be fine, I’ve heard they’re not the most pleasant things to have! x

  5. Lisa's Notebook says:

    I can’t believe I’ve reached the age I have without knowing anything about the HPV virus. I do agree with you STDs tend to be swept under the carpet and they don’t have a good reputation. But they are so common and the alarming thing is how easily they’re transmitted. I wasn’t aware you could have a vaccine either, or that they can come and go from our bodies. I do have regular smear tests (if you can call every three years regular, but you know what I mean) and so far so clear, but I really appreciate this in depth article, it’s really helpful. Also, I’m never not going to associate “sticking your fanny to the arctic circle” with you now!!! Seriously, fab post, Jenny, apologies for the long rambling comment though xxx

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    1. Wow really/ Well I’m glad this could be informative to you! I think 3 years is pushing it a bit. Every year or 2 would be better. And HAHAHA thank you xxx

  6. This is an extremely important topic to discuss. I’m only 22 so my smear test is kinda long way, but it still kinda terrifies me. Despite the fear, I know that not getting yourself tested is the worst thing that I could do. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

    Laura / https://www.laustworld.com/

    1. You’ve got a while yet – although I do think the age should be much lower than 25. But you’ll be fine when the time comes! x

  7. Such a great and important post! I have to wait another couple of years before I’m allowed to have a smear test but it’s great to know what it’s for and posts like this make me feel more comfortable about going when the time comes😊

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! x

  8. I love that you’re talking about important topics like this! Great post lovely!

    Chloe 💕 http://www.anomalouschloe.com

    1. Thank you x

  9. Such an important post and one that’s so often misunderstood! I think a lot of people think they’re immune if they had the vaccine which is so so wrong

    1. It’s a dangerous thing to think, especially if they think they don’t need to have smear tests! x

  10. Casey Anne says:

    Way to highlight the important of theses screenings! I know tons of women who have a fear of going to the OBGYM to get anything done including screenings. These are extremely important for everyone. Preventative measures are something I think everyone should focus on. Especially when such screenings and test take virtually no time and effort and will protect you in the long run!

    1. Absolutely! x

  11. Lisa Alioto says:

    Making it real – I love it! thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you x

  12. This is such an important post, Jenny! My mums a nurse who does smear tests and seeing her so passionate about helping women learn more about their health has made me the same. Great info & thanks for speaking out and sharing your own story!

    Jess xx

    1. Awh that’s great to hear! x

  13. Such an important cause to highlight and bring attention to – I think a lot of people will learn a lot, I certainly did + I think a lot of people are nervous about it all but this dispels a lot of that fear! Thanks for sharing Jenny x

    1. Thanks so much, glad this could be informative to you x

  14. Such an important topic and I feel like not many people are actually aware of this. I had an eye opening conversation with one of my mum’s friends earlier this year. She thought that her daughter (10 years younger than me) wouldn’t need to have smear tests because they’d had the HPV vaccine at school. I had to break it to her that people my age got the vaccine too and it doesn’t actually prevent it and she had no idea. It’s crazy how ill informed we are about very common things that can impact our health. Thanks for sharing! x

    Sophie

    1. Wow really?! It’s scary how ill informed some people are. Especially if these things are stopping people getting their smears because they think they’re immune to it! x

  15. I have had it done once when I first started birth control. The last time I got my subscription renewed at a new doctor, I was old I have a choice of whether I get it. They recommend to keep getting it if you have multiple partners. I have only ever had sex with my current partner. I don’t know if I will get it done next time

    1. It’s recommended to have your screening every 3 years, as long as you’re sexually active. Regardless of how many partners. As long as you’re sexually you’re, you’re always at risk.

      1. Thank you. I will be getting one the next time I go. It has been 3 years since I got it. The only that I don’t like is the process of getting it done

  16. Thank you for writing about this! Most women know that they should have Pap smears done but sometimes fear them and go ages without getting checked out. Yes they can hurt, but they’re so necessary.

    1. And also go without REALLY knowing what it is they’re looknig for x

  17. I always have regular smear tests, and have done since I was first invited to by the NHS. My mum has a history of cancer and related illness, so I needed to be sure I had no genetic predisposition. I have never considered the issue of HPV, however, mainly because it wasn’t talked about when I was a teenager. Thank you for raising the issue and talking about it.

    1. I’m glad this could be informative to you. But the main thing is is always going for your smears x

  18. I have the vaccine but I haven’t been for the test yet – I need to x

    1. You definitely do if you’re old enough x

  19. Love this post girl, kudos to you for being so open about your experience with HPV and shedding light on the topic. I think cervical screening is so important and we’re so lucky to have it for free on the NHS. xx

    1. Thank you – I agree. We’re SO lucky x

  20. I’m not in the age bracket for smear tests, but I had various tests done when having fertility tests so I ended up having a smear test too. It was definitely nerve-wracking to think about before I had it done, especially when having kids was hanging on it at the time. The nurse you get makes all the difference I think, she was lovely and talked me through it all so I was as relaxed as possible. I will say that not all GP’s offer the vaccine until 25! I went to ask to have it done, and was told I would need to book privately and pay £257 per shot, even though I’m 23 and would qualify if they did it. Apparently I’m at lower risk as I haven’t got anything and am engaged, so unless one cheats the risk is very very low. How correct that is, I don’t know! Definitely not a “fixes all” but worth the extra precaution if you can get it, as like you say it’s so common. Very informative post, Jenny!
    Bella x – https://www.theruralsoul.com

    1. The nurse or doctor definitely can make ALL the difference, I agree. They can put you entirely at ease! Being engaged and having one sexual partner definitely does help but anyone who’s sexually active is at risk of cervical changes. But you’re safe with the HPV virus, like you said, as long as neither of you cheats! x

  21. Such an important topic to talk about! I’m 25 in a few months so will be due my first smear, and I’m absolutely terrified but I know it’s so vital to get done xx

    Tiffany x http://www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

    1. Ohh it so is! Best of luck when the time comes x

  22. katy gilroy says:

    such an important thing to talk and be open about, so this is a great post! I can’t wait til I’m old enough to have a smear – just for peace of mind x

    1. It really does give you a peace of mind x

  23. Thank you for shining some light on this topic, I found it really informative. I wanted to book a smear test months ago, but despite so many reassuring posts from fellow bloggers, I’ve been too scared to go. I definitely need to work up the courage in the coming months because early detection is key!

    Dominika | http://www.intothebloom.com

    1. It absolutely is – especially with cervical cancer! As it often takes YEARS to develop. You’ll be glad you went when you do! x

  24. They now offer HPV shots to students but back in my day, it wasn’t available. Luckily, my mom paid for my shots ($600 for 3 shots) because she’s that mom. As for Pap smears and screenings, I’m 3+ years overdue (I know I know) but the thing is, I’m deathly scared of them. It makes me so squeamish. I even get letters in the mail informing me to get it done but I’m afraid to go. I don’t have a family doctor to track me down either which may explain why I’ve been able to put it off this long.

    1. Ah I hope you manage to go soon. They’re not pleasant but the potential alternative is much worse.

  25. I got the HPV vaccine but I only learned reading this that I’m not actually immune to HPV – thank you so much for sharing. I’m always careful but I’m such a hypochondriac that I’ll be running into my first smear test!

    Ash | thisdreamsalive.com

    1. Haha you sound like me! But that’s good though!

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