Taking a break from my usual beauty & lifestyle content I wanted to speak about my experience of the Cervical Screening ( also known as the Smear Test). In May I had my very first smear test, being 26 I did initially put off the examination as I was absolutely mortified about the whole thing. Being someone who has never really been to the doctors for more than a cold I wasn’t one to have been that intimate with a stranger so the thought of the whole experience really had me sweating. I knew it was something I had to do and in the end, the thought that I could potentially be putting my life at risk began to overpower my fears of having to go through the entire situation. I was anxious about going but I was even more anxious about not going. When I received another letter about attending the examination I knew that it was time to do it. I read the leaflet, which I refused to do the first time it was sent and found myself feeling a lot calmer about the situation. For example, it takes place at your GP Surgery, for whatever reason I thought it would be at the hospital and the palaver of getting there and being in the big building had added to the tension of going ( a stupid excuse I know).
Something that made me feel a lot more comfortable about the situation is the leaflet said that if you’re wearing a dress or skirt you just need to lift it up, as I wear dresses exclusively it was nice to know that I wouldn’t have to remove anything or wear anything I wasn’t comfortable with. It’s a small detail but it really made me feel a lot better.
The extract below explains why it is important for a woman to attend their examination.
“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.
Most of these changes won’t lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous.
About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.
It’s possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged 30 to 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.” – NHS
I booked my appointment to coincide with a day off and for an early appointment so that I wouldn’t spend the whole day worrying about it. I had a female nurse take my examination however you can always double check and request a female nurse when you’re booking the appointment. Truth be told it hadn’t occurred to me that I may have had a male nurse.
The nurse sat with me and asked me a few questions (when was the last time I had my period and if I’ve ever been pregnant) and explained to me what would happen. She informed me that I should receive my results within 4 weeks and that if there was anything not quite right with them, for example, there weren’t enough cells taken then you’d be invited back within 6 months – if there were some abnormalities you would be invited back within 3 months… I was also told that it wasn’t unusual for my age group to have changes in the cells but it to be perfectly fine. So I was told not to worry if I received the 3 months letter.
If everything was normal I would be invited back in 3 years.
I was then asked to remove the lower half of my clothes and to cover myself with the provided paper blanket – having worn a dress I really felt covered up (perhaps an option for you to consider) This was done behind a curtain so I was able to compose myself in privacy. The nurse also locked the door which I also found sooo helpful. Once I was lying down I was asked to lie with my heels together. She then used an instrument called a Speculum which “holds the walls of the vagina open” (NHS), it took the nurse a couple of times to get the right size (every gal is different) and although it isn’t sore it is uncomfortable but bearable. Then it was time for the sweep where they brush for the cells. For me this was the most unpleasant part, again it wasn’t sore but it was such an unusual feeling like something was scraping inside me, however, this is done using a soft brush so it really is nothing to be worried about. It was a new feeling but nothing traumatising – I’m pretty sure the second time around it won’t bother me.
And that was it. 2-3 minutes at the most if not less the actual examination lasted.
The lovely nurse again told me when I should expect my results whilst I got dressed (again behind a curtain) and I was free to go. Feeling hella proud of myself may I add.
That is why I wanted to write this post because I know what it was like dreading and putting off making the appointment, it’s an inconvenience and not one bit fun but it doesn’t hurt and it really is about 7 minutes long all in all. The thought of the situation and the dread is way worse than the whole experience.
The nurses do this all the time and they know if this is your first time so they’ll more than likely make you feel even more at ease. To be honest I feel like I was faking confidence throughout the whole procedure (which probably didn’t fool her) but helped me get through it despite feeling super anxious inside.
I also wanted to point out that if you’re a virgin the screening isn’t really needed as you are at a lower risk – however, the choice is yours whether you would like to attend or not. Another handy piece of info is that it is best not to attend if you’re on your period as it may hinder the results which would mean you’d be asked to return within 6 months – plus I feel like it would just make everything a little more awkward.
If you’re reading this being one of those people who are petrified of going to your appointment please know that I was that person and here I am trying to convince you that it’s in no way as bad as I thought. A few things I did to make myself feel more comfortable before the examination was having a bath, I wanted to be fresh and I also shaved my legs… Does the nurse care if my legs (or any other part of my body for that matter) is shaved… Not one bit. But it’s all about making this ‘not an everyday task’ more comfortable for yourself, so if that means smooth, hairless legs and pretty red nail varnish on the toes then so be it. You could even bring out the good underwear but truth be told the nurse doesn’t see that. Just do what makes you feel good and happy and confident.
Whilst waiting for my results I knew there was a chance I’d have to book again in a few months but the fear that I had previously held before has disappeared.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me about the experience please don’t be afraid to reach out, you can private message me on any of my social accounts.