Cervical screening and mammograms can be important screenings to prevent cancer – yet research has shown a decline in Google searches on both of these health checks since the start of 2020. The team from Bupa Global outlines some myths that might prevent women from going for a smear test or mammogram.
Myth 1: An abnormal smear test indicates a high risk of cancer
Cervical screening is not a test for cancer – it’s used to help prevent cancer. A sample is checked for certain “high risk” types of HPV. If these are not found, then nothing further is done; if they are present, then the cells from the sample are checked for any changes; abnormal cells that are left untreated could lead to cancer.
Having regular cervical screening will identify any abnormalities. These may not be cancerous, and mild abnormalities don’t always need to be treated. Depending on the result, you may need to have treatment to remove or destroy the abnormal cells. In any case, your GP should contact you with next steps, and will be able to answer any concerns you have.
Myth 2: Smear tests and mammograms are painful
Some people may find a smear test uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does hurt or if you’re feeling especially nervous, let your nurse know so they can try and make you more comfortable. Try to relax, as this should reduce any discomfort you feel.
A mammogram procedure may be uncomfortable due to the nature of the test, but this discomfort only lasts a few seconds. If you are worried about the procedure being painful, let your nurse or doctor know before the procedure begins.
Myth 3: Finding a lump in your breast is always cancerous
Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. If you notice a lump in your breast, it’s very important to get this checked by your doctor; a lump or change to the feel or appearance of your breasts should never be ignored.
Myth 4: I should check my breasts on the same day of every month
You should check your breasts whenever it’s convenient for you. Do it as often as you feel you need, as it’s important to notice any changes quickly. Any changes to your breasts in terms of how they feel or look should be noticed and reported to your GP.
Myth 5: If I check my breasts regularly, I don’t need a mammogram
It’s important that you check your breasts regularly and attend your female health appointments. Mammograms are an important procedure for women over the age of 50, as most cancers found during a mammogram are at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel; meaning you may not have noticed a change in appearance or touch.
Myth 6: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need to check my health
Female health checks across all ages are there to detect any early signs of abnormalities and cancer. It’s important to attend all of your female health checks and regularly examine yourself. Even if you’re showing no unusual symptoms, you should attend your checks as these can detect abnormalities before you start showing any symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively treating cancers; attending all appointments – even if you’re feeling well – is vital.
This article was designed and produced by Bupa Global by searching internal and external data and information for information provision and reference purposes only. Any views or information mentioned and set out in this article/webpage are based on general situations. Readers should not regard them as medical advices or medical recommendations. Before making any decisions about the theme of this article, you are recommended to seek independent advice from suitable professionals (such as doctors, nutritionists, etc.). It is clearly stated that Bupa Global will not bear any responsibilities for others’ usage or interpretation of the information listed in this article. Terms and conditions apply, please visit bupaglobal.com for full details on the insurance plans. The plans are insured by Bupa (Asia) Limited and administered by Bupa Global. Bupa Global is a trading name adopted by Bupa (Asia) Limited in relation to its portfolio of International Private Medical Insurance products and services. Bupa (Asia) Limited is authorised and regulated by the Hong Kong Insurance Authority. This material shall not be construed as an offer to sell or solicitation to buy or provision of any insurance product outside Hong Kong.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.