Why is cervical cancer worth screening?
Cervical cancer develops from pre-cancerous lesions (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, CIN) that can be found by cervical screening and treated before progression to invasive cancer. Taking part in the organised population-based screening programme where screening is provided for all women at certain age, regardless of place of residence or socioeconomic status, or other selective factors in the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer.

Who are to be screened?
In Finland, women are invited to cervical cancer screening at five-year intervals, and the target group is age 30 to 60. Nevertheless, reporting abnormal bleeding or spotting at the screening visit or having borderline cytological abnormalities (Papanicolaou class II, ASC-US) in the cervical sample, usually leads to intensified screening (within one to two years).

Who should attend screening?
All women who are invited should attend.

Human papillomavirus or HPV is mainly a sexually transmitted virus. So, all women having or having had sexual activity in their lives may have acquired an HPV infection and may develop cervical precancerous lesions or cancer later on. However, cervical cancer may also develop without the HPV infection. Thus, all women that are invited should attend screening regardless of their actual or previous sexual activity.

Pregnancy, breastfeeding, hysterectomy or a recent Pap test (taken for whatever reason) does not prevent attending screening.

How much does it cost to attend screening?
Screening is organised and offered by municipalities, and it is free of charge to the attendees.

How does the screening take place?
Personal invitation to screening is mailed to the home address. The letter informs on a place and a pre-fixed time for an appointment, or how to make one. During the screening visit a nurse takes a smear and an information form will also be completed. The screening sample is analysed in a screening laboratory.

How the screening sample is taken?
A trained nurse takes samples of cells from the vagina, cervix and cervical channel. Having a sample taken may feel like a pinch and during the next few days some extra spotting may occur.

What is the information form needed for?
The information is needed for a proper interpretation of the screening sample. Questions about women´s recent gynaecological history include the last menstrual period, use of contraceptives, use of hormone replacement therapy, the time of last cervical sample and its result. In addition, information on any previous cervical lesions detected and their treatments are asked.

How can I be prepared for sample taking?
There is no need to prepare for the sample taking particularly. The date of the last menstrual period as well as the time of the last cervical sample (Pap test) and its result should be checked.

Can I attend screening during menstrual bleeding?
Menstrual bleeding does not prohibit sample taking, although, it is undesirable. In case menstrual bleeding is about to occur at the time of the screening visit, the time can be changed. Bleeding for any other reason than the menstrual period never prevents attendance!

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