Wondering how much a cervical screening costs? We examine this important procedure and give guidance for costs at a private hospital.
Cervical cancer is among the most common cancers in women, along with breast, colorectal and ovarian cancers. More than half a million women are diagnosed with it around the world each year, with some 311,000 tragically losing their lives to the disease. In the UK, around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually, and millions are invited for screening every year so that lives can be saved.
Unlike other cancers whose origin may not be known — perhaps because they’re a combination of lifestyle, dietary, environmental and genetic factors — cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus, commonly transferred from one person to another through sexual contact. That’s why the highest incidence of cervical cancer is in women of reproductive age who are sexually active. This makes it essential that women are screened for cervical cancer every few years, so if the disease is present, it can be treated early and the patient has a good chance of survival.
But how much does a cervical screening cost? In some countries, like the UK, you can get cervical screening done for free, on a public health system like the NHS. But you may be waiting a long time for the test, and the results could take weeks or longer to come back due to busy laboratories. Instead, many women opt for cervical screening at a private hospital, where they’ll be quickly seen and get their results almost immediately. We’ll get to the cost later, but first, we’re going to have a closer look at cervical screening and why it’s so vital for women’s health.
What’s involved with a cervical screening?
The good news about cervical screening — also known as a smear test — is that it’s quick and painless and typically takes around five or 10 minutes. A doctor or nurse will take a sample of the cells lining the cervix — the part of the reproductive system that connects the vagina and the womb — to see if there’s any sign of human papillomavirus or abnormal cell growth that could mean cancer. They will use an instrument called a speculum, along with a lubricant, to gently open up the area so that the doctor or nurse can examine it and take the sample. There should be no pain or discomfort involved with using a speculum. If you find there is, you should tell the medics and they may use a different size instrument.
The nurse or doctor may ask you to change position during the procedure so that they can get an optimal view of the cervix. They will usually use something like a soft brush to collect a sample of cells from the cervix wall. Then the speculum will be closed and taken out and you’re free to get dressed and go home.
If you’re nervous or anxious about a cervical screening, you can do a number of things to make you feel calm before and during the procedure — such as deep-breathing exercises or listening to music or a podcast. You might also like to have a family member or friend with you as support. It’s important to keep in mind that cervical screening is designed to protect your health and ensure you get immediate treatment if abnormal cell growth and the virus are detected in the cervical area.
Are there symptoms of cervical cancer?
Often there are few if no symptoms of many cancers, including cervical cancer. It’s only when uncontrolled cell growth happens that a tumour mass develops and can interrupt normal body functions, especially if cancerous cells migrate to other parts of the body. The immune system can prevent human papillomavirus from causing any harm, but the microorganism can linger in the cervix for many years. Over that time, cells on the cervix wall can become cancerous.
You may know you have a problem if any of the following occurs:
- Bleeding between periods or heavier periods that last longer
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful sex and bleeding afterwards
- Pain in the back or pelvic area
- Bleeding following menopause
None of these symptoms might individually mean you have cervical cancer. But if any of them develop, it’s vital you’re immediately seen by your doctor, whether at a public or private hospital. When cervical cancer is caught early, the survival rate can be as high as 71%, and patients can go on to live long and healthy lives.
When should you book a cervical screening?
It’s recommended that women aged 25 to 49 have a cervical screening every three years and every five years for women aged 50 to 64. Under 25s and over 65s can also have them, but usually not as frequently. If you’re registered with a local GP and your country’s public health system has a cervical screening programme, you may be invited for testing. Even if you are invited, you might still wish to attend a private hospital to have it done, so there’s no waiting and you’ll quickly have your appointment and test.
Don’t book an appointment if you’re having your period or for several days before and after because there may be blood cells in the sample taken, making the result inaccurate, or at least it will be difficult to determine the result. It’s the same for any infection in the pelvic region or vaginal discharge — it’s best to wait till it’s cleared up and you’ve finished any course of treatment you’re on. Vaginal lubricants and creams can also skew the results of cervical screening, so you should avoid them for a couple of days before you attend your appointment.
Pregnant women — including those who think they may be pregnant but have not yet confirmed it with a test — usually don’t have cervical screening, as the results can be difficult to make out. But if a test is necessary because the result of a previous one indicated abnormal cell growth, you can have one shortly after your baby is born. Otherwise, you can wait 12 weeks after your baby’s arrival to have a cervical screening. If you’d prefer that female nurses and doctors do your screening, make sure you let your GP or private hospital know, and they will make them available.
So how much does a cervical screening cost?
As for the cost of cervical screening, it depends on what kind of private healthcare in London and elsewhere you have, as every private hospital will have its own, usually different fees. But you can expect a cervical screening to cost a couple of hundred pounds — even less. If you have health insurance with Bupa, Aviva, AXA or other providers, it may cover the cost.
Then you have peace of mind in knowing you’ll be quickly seen, have access to some of the top doctors and nurses in the country, enjoy a high level of healthcare in comfortable surroundings and get the attention you need. Your cervical screening will be over in a flash and hopefully, it will be clear so that you can get on with your life, safe in the knowledge you’re perfectly fine and healthy.
The WellWoman Screening Package at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital checks for a range of conditions, including the presence of human papillomavirus. Book your screening today.