Am I still encouraged to get a smear test if I’ve never had sex? Dr. Zoe Williams discusses your concerns.


Over the past week, there has been much discussion of various jabs.

The University of Texas at Austin has developed an injection that they claim will “cure” hangovers, and the National Health Service (NHS) will soon begin offering the weight loss injection Wegovy, which has reportedly helped Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian reduce their weight.


Those aged 75 and up, those residing in nursing homes, and those with compromised immune systems (those who were born before May 2, 1957) will all be able to get the most recent Covid booster shot this spring.

Whether you’re going on a regular vacation or jetting off to a far-flung destination where certain infectious diseases are more common, you and your loved ones should be up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations.

At nhs.uk, the National Health Service (NHS) explains how often you should get immunized and what other vaccines you might need if you’re going abroad.

Here is what readers asked me this week . . .

Many members of my family (my mother, both of my grandparents) have suffered from strokes.

How much do they run in families?

A) Strokes, like many other conditions, can run in families, but the leading risk factors for stroke are often inherited from one generation to the next.

Too much alcohol consumption, smoking, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all major risk ­factors for strokes that we often pick up from our parents.

Even though we can’t alter our chronological age or our genetic make-up, we can modify our greatest risk factors by adopting a healthful way of life.

Take stock of your current way of life and see if there is anything you can change to reduce your risk, such as adopting a healthier diet and more exercise.

My wife has suffered from burning mouth syndrome for over two years.

Including alternative methods of treatment, we have exhausted all possibilities.

It’s not just you; the doctors have exhausted all of their options.

If you have any suggestions that might help alleviate the pain, please share them.

We aren’t expecting a miracle, just some relief at this point.

Having a burning, tingling, or scalding sensation in the mouth is a symptom of burning mouth syndrome, which is a painful and disabling condition.

In postmenopausal women over the age of 50, it is the most common cancer diagnosis. Neuropathy (when nerves are damaged or malfunction) is thought to be at the root of BMS’s excruciating pain.

Therefore, there are modifications to the way taste and temperature signals are transmitted to the brain from the oral ganglia.

The sensation of pain or burning can result from the brain’s incorrect interpretation of these signals.

It’s possible that taste receptors are at play, which would explain why food might not taste right. Symptoms are typically used to make the diagnosis.

You didn’t say whether or not your wife has a preexisting condition like diabetes, allergies, or nutritional deficiencies that could be exacerbating her symptoms.

You probably already know this, but avoiding things like spicy foods, alcohol, mouthwashes with alcohol in them, and acidic foods can help reduce your symptoms.

For temporary pain relief, try using pharmacy-bought Difflam spray or mouthwash.

If hormone imbalance is suspected, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be effective. Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and other medications often used to treat chronic ­neuropathic pain, such as amitriptyline, duloxetine, gabapentin, and pregabalin, may also be useful.

In order to effectively treat BMS, patients must first fully comprehend the nature of the disorder and accept that it is a chronic condition for which there is usually no cure.

Treatment aims to alleviate or at least control symptoms.

Even though BMS isn’t linked to any serious health issues, dealing with a sore mouth on a regular basis can cause frustration, nervousness, and even depression.

Understanding the link between stress and symptoms is crucial for developing effective coping strategies. Methods such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can be useful.

It’s important that your wife, despite the pain she’s experiencing, stays active.

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If she has done well throughout the day, she may want to give herself a reward by scheduling some time for ­pleasant activities.

Some people benefit more from these kinds of interventions than from medication.

Smear tests catch cancer

I’ve never had sexual relations, so I was wondering if I should still get a smear test.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, yet it claims the lives of two British women every day.

There are about 3,200 new cases each year, making it the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35.

If all women of reproductive age took advantage of the federal government’s free cervical cancer screenings (also known as smear tests), we could stop most cases of this cancer from ever occurring.

These examinations seek to ascertain whether or not cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) is present.

It’s a checkup to see if any precancerous abnormal cells have formed, which can then be treated.

Because it can take years for abnormal cells to develop into cancer, women in the UK are offered them every three or five years.

If you’ve never missed a screening, your safety is guaranteed.

If you have never engaged in any form of sexual activity, including non-penetrating sex, your risk of developing cervical cancer is extremely low, but you are free to accept or decline the screening if it is offered.

You don’t explain what you mean by “sexually active” in your question.

Oral sex, sharing sex toys, and any kind of skin-to-skin contact in the genital area are all ways to spread the HPV virus.

Therefore, it is still important to go to cervical screening to check for HPV even if you haven’t had penetrative sex but have done any of the above.

Although HPV is typically eliminated by the body on its own, some strains, known as “high risk” HPV, have been linked to the development of cervical cancer if left untreated.

Tell the nurse or doctor that you’re a virgin so they can use a smaller speculum and extra caution and gentleness if you decide to get screened.

To add to that, you are free to bring a friend or family member along for moral support if that makes you feel better.

You should get screened if you have a cervix and have ever had sexual contact, regardless of the partners’ sex.


Micheal Kurt

I earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport science from Oregon State University. He is an avid sports lover who enjoys tennis, football, and a variety of other activities. He is from Tucson, Arizona, and is a huge Cardinals supporter.

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