Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What Happens During A Smear Test?

What happens during a smear test?
 
Earlier this year I received an important letter in the post, one that every woman, once they reach a certain age, will receive; an invitation for my first cervical screening, aka 'smear test'. Ill admit, my initial reaction was 'Oh crap', but after pregnancy, and giving birth I wasn't exactly adverse to getting my vagina out. Oh the joys of being a woman, but that's reality and the thought of cancer was far more daunting than a few minutes of embarrassment so I booked it.

A few days ago I read the recent figures released by the NHS which showed that the South West has one of the UK's lowest rates of young women coming forward for smear tests. Evidence shows there has been a fall in attendance of women across all age groups over the past few years but the decline is more prominent amongst younger women. This really shocked me, when something like cervical cancer can be markedly prevented by regular screenings and the HPV vaccine, I just can't fathom why anyone wouldn't have it done. I understand that embarrassment is a huge factor but the whole procedure really isn't that bad so I thought I'd share my experience in the hope it urges someone else to go and have their cervical screening done...


So what happened at my first smear test?


The test was performed at my GP surgery by a practice nurse. I was asked to undress from the waist down, cover my dignity with some paper and to lie on the bed with my ankles together and knees apart. The nurse then put some lubricant onto a plastic speculum and inserted it into my vagina. The speculum was then opened inside which allowed the nurse to see my cervix. She then used a special brush to take samples of my cervix, popped them into a vial and removed the speculum. I was then asked to get dressed and voila, it was over.

The whole procedure took less than five minutes and I didn't find it painful, just a little uncomfortable once the speculum was inserted. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can bring someone with you but honestly, it's really nothing major. I expected invasive equipment scraping my cervix, but the brush was just like a long mascara brush and I didn't feel anything at all when she was taking the sample.

The nurse explained that results could take 2 -  6 weeks, they actually arrived before that and I was luckily given the all clear. Yay. Now I know this isn't the case for everybody, around 5% of women have some abnormalities but the majority of these can be treated easily before they become cancer.


Why have a smear test?


Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35. The number of women dying from the disease has halved over the past 28 years but despite this; every day nine women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women lose their lives. The majority of the women diagnosed have delayed coming forward for their screening which has affected their ability to have early changes detected and treated.

The most important active step you can take to avoid developing cancer is taking up your screening appointment. A cervical screen can detect pre-cancer abnormalities which if left untreated, may develop into cancer. It's a preventative measure which could prevent you from needing more invasive treatment later on and potentially save your life.

I really hope that this gets at least one person to go and have their smear test done. If you need any more information then I'd recommend looking on Jo's Trust where you can find loads of helpful resources and support.

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15 comments

  1. Well done you for sharing - this is a really important topic and it is great to help make others aware. They aren't that bad really are they!

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  2. Such an important thing to have done - I remember being terrified when I had my first one but they really aren't scary at all. Thanks for sharing, hopefully it encourages more woman to get theirs done - which reminds me, I need to book mine in!!

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  3. I'm glad more and more people are sharing their experiences of smear tests. I've had two now and my very first had me petrified. I cried when I got to the nurse's room and was so worried, she had to calm me down. Waiting for the results is a nerve wracking time but the test is so important (and I personally think the age should be lowered to at least 18!) Well done for sharing, raising awareness and putting people's minds at ease is so important.

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  4. Well done for sharing. I've recently had my first and I was so nervous but honestly don't know what I made all the fuss about! Ox

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  5. Like a lot of people I was so anxious before I had my first smear test. I've now had two and it could not be quicker/easier. Such an informative post, well done for spreading awareness xx

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  6. A smear test is so important, i can understand why people would be anxious about going but id rather suffer the five minutes embarrassment than deal with what could be missed! glad to see a post about it x will definitely share on twitter x

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  7. I don't quite get it! Video?

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  8. Such a great post, thank you for sharing. I am yet to receive a letter to go for my first one. I wish they would bring the age forward though x

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  9. This is such an important topic that I wish more people spoke about xx

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  10. Well done for sharing. It's so important to have a smear test. I think I've had about 5 or 6 now and it's just something you have to get done like people looking at your vagina when you're giving birth. Great post.

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  11. It always really surprises me when people put off their smear test, it could quite literally save your life! I've had two now and it's never been a bad experience. Well done for sharing! Hopefully people will read this and feel better about going xx

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  12. So important u have shared this. I had my first smear test done in 2015 a few months after having my son. It's not as bad as you expect it to be and all women should make sure that they get it done.

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  13. This would have helped so much with my first smear - I put mine off for 2 years, I was so nervous of the unknown that I decided the risk was better than just sucking it up and going. Well done for sharing! xx

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  14. Great post to help raise awareness and break down the fear factor. Yes, it's a little bit embarrassing but over so quickly, the build up to one is far worse!

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  15. I was invited for mine shortly after my 25th birthday. There was alot of mix ups with information about when it should be done as my daughter was less than a month old.
    Some said 16 weeks after I gave birth, others said 6 months. Was very confusing. Still had it done in the end

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