*This might not be your typical breakfast post*
This is an important post i feel the need to write. So soz for the oversharing and that. There’s a lot of stigma around smear tests so much so that without evening opening my NHS letter i got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. When you reach 24 and a half and there’s nothing else physically wrong with you, a letter from the doctors can really only mean one thing. I was so nervous at the time and lemme tell you while Google does a lot of great things ( i have to say that ;)) it is not the place to go when you’re trying to learn about medical stuff. I saw loads of horror stories about smear tests taking half an hour, them being ridiculously painful, getting prodded with cold metal instruments and bad test results. I don’t think the media has helped paint the best perceptions of smear tests over the years as well. As soon as any young girl gets diagnosed with cervical cancer, the media headlines the story and links it with the smear test age. Of course i agree that the smear test age should be a hell of a lot younger but that is not what this post is about. I want to perhaps expel some myths and share my story because i went for a smear test recently and it was ok. I didn’t have to worry myself silly about something that was pain free and over in a few seconds. Of my course my experience won’t be the same as everyone else’s but i’ve only got my story to share so let’s have a chat about smear tests.
Ok so a bit of background about why i wanted to write this post. A lot of people don’t go for smear tests – the Huffington Post reported that five million women are not up to date and 1.1 million have never even been for a smear. I don’t know if it’s because of the stigma, something that never becomes a priority on the to do list or another reason why people avoid the doctors but i think they are very important and despite my worry, they are something i’ve always wished i could have a lot earlier in life. I’m writing this post then because if it is fear or stigma stopping you from booking a test, it’s not half as bad as you might think.
Cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer; it’s a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women’s test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix…Being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing.
So enough about the background let me tell you how my first smear test went. Well first of all everything i’d read on the internet was crap – there was no metal, no pain, it took about two minutes and the woman who did my test was lovely and reassuring.
Before the actual test i had a chat with the nurse who explained the process to me in detail so i felt comfortable. She then asked me a couple off questions about when my last period was and whether i could be pregnant. Just a light chat, no exam, nothing to worry about.
The first stage of the screening (smear test is an ugly term, let’s call it what it actually is – a cervical screening) was nothing too different to having a bikini wax. I got in there, got undressed in private and laid on the table with a sheet covering me. When i was ready the nurse came in and asked me to get into position. The nurse then uses a plastic speculum to hold the walls of your vagina open while she inserts a soft brush to collect some cells from the cervix. In my case i had a tilted cervix so i had so slightly adjust my position but there was no other issues and it took less than a minute to do the cell collection. The nurse who did my screening was very calm and considerate – she kept asking me every two seconds if i was ok and reassuring me everything was fine. Truth is though nothing felt uncomfortable or painful and the actual process was over before i knew it. I know some people may experience a slight twinge of pain and some tests may take a little longer but there is nothing to worry about. I spent more time thinking about my smear then i did in the nurse’s office which tells you a story. Often things we are uncertain about can cause anxiety and get built up in our heads but a cervical screening is important and it’s natural. I think if you’re worried you should think about the reason why are you having it done and remind yourself that every woman will go through this at some point, it’s just like a check up at the dentist – a lot of people hate dentists don’t they, probably not the best comparison then!
Seriously though a lot of people worry about smear tests – i did but it was ok. I’ll tell you a few anecdotes about my build up to the appointment. I had so many nervous pees in the waiting room, i thought i’d be booking a new appointment to see the doctor about a weak bladder. I made sure when i went toilet before i took fragranced wipes with me to ensure i smelt nice. I made sure i was well groomed in the run up and i chose a nice pair of matching underwear for the day. All that sounds ridiculous now – i mean come on i put nice underwear on as if i was going on a date when i was actually going doctors, wow! I think i might even have made a cringey joke about hoping the heating was on… eugh haha! Genuinely though my mind ran on the concept of a smear test but it turned out to be ok. I’m not going to say it’s the highlight of my week, you know it’s still a trip to the doctors but i had no need to worry about it and next time i go it will be a walk in the park.