Just recently I had a conversation on Facebook with numerous women and we were discussing the smear test. A few ladies said they hadn’t booked an appointment due to fear. Let’s all admit, we’ve heard a few horror stories regarding smear tests and it’s even put me off – although I don’t yet ‘qualify’. Cervical screenings, I think, are so so important for women to have when they turn 25, it either gives you piece of mind, or a doctor is able to detect something early on and it can be treated as soon as possible.
I hadn’t really thought about the smear test, until just recently. I turn 24 in January and since having children, it’s all I have thought about. Most women believe a cervical screening is to detect whether or not you have cervical cancer, it isn’t. It’s to check the health of the cells of the cervix and to test for any abnormal cells. Usually, 1 in 20 women will have abnormal cells, but usually these changes will not lead to cervical cancer and may go back to normal. But in some cases, however, these abnormal cells need to be removed.
It’s possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer (so which genius decided the test is only available for women over 25 years of age?!) although I have read that cervical cancer is less likely under the age of 25 and around 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.
I recently did a bit of ‘crowd-sourcing’ and asked women if they’d be able to provide me with information of their own personal experiences with the cervical screening test.
Mo (A Novice Mum) at http://adventuresofanovicemum.co.uk said:
“I found the thought of the smear test uncomfortable, because it’s invasive; this was made more bearable knowing that my GP is female. I
tried not to think much about it, to minimise my anxiety about it. I really found my GP’s ‘instruction’ to relax helpful. It was clear that the more relaxed I was, the less uncomfortable it would be. And so I tried to focus on relaxing throughout the test, and this helped. It
was over before I knew it, and that was it.”
Aimee (Mum Aime) at http://www.mumamie.com/blog said:
“So I had my first smear when I was 20. At the time women were offered smear tests from the age of 20 on the NHS, which was much better in my opinion. I was pretty nervous and unsure of what to expect. The nurse put the clamp in and then started faffing around trying to get a sample. After a lot of sighing and huffing, she said, ‘You have an extraordinarily long vagina. I need to leave the room for a few moments and find a different clamp.’ She left and a few moments turned into ten minutes, while i was lying on the bed with the other clamp still in. I was terrified someone was going to walk in and more than a bit uncomfortable. When she came back she didn’t apologise, she just said, ‘It took a bit longer than I thought to find it.’ No kidding! Luckily, it didn’t put me off having smears as they are so important to keep up to date with. And i have never had to have a ‘different’ clamp used again. So either the NHS have changed their clamps or the problem was with that nurse and not my vagina!”
(I absolutely love your honesty Aimee!)
and also Shari at http://redrite.co.uk/blog/ said:
“I remember the build up to my first smear test and reading friends stories online, although lacking detail a common thread was how uncomfortable/painful the experience was. Many of these ladies had already had kids, and as a mother of 3 children by the age of 22 I was curious as to how their experiences differed to what I was expecting.
During pregnancies I had several labour scares and so therefore had to be checked occasionally for any dilation and within my first pregnancy I was checked at the very beginning for things like thrush to make sure there was nothing to affect the birth. I had also had my appendix out before turning 25 which required an internal probe done so was expecting a similar experience. A typical lay flat with the bottom of your feet touching ankles to your bottom and hands under your bum to lift the pelvic area up, yes there would be slight uncomfortableness when the speculum is inserted but as the nurse/doctor keeps saying, breathe and stay calm it makes it far easier. From then it is a few seconds while they swipe a cotton bud over your cervix (it can feel like a slight pushing sensation internally but not really uncomfortable) and you are done. I have only had 1 smear test (although had a similar depth test while pregnant) so far and did not leave in agony like majority of my friends claimed so can only imagine that either their doctors were not considerate and just hashed the job or they were so worried about what would happen they tensed up which increase the discomfort the speculum causes.
Top advice would be not to think about it… seriously just relax, breathe and count to 60… then you are done for another 3 years. I have my next smear test due in about 6 months and I will be treating it like any other doctors appointment.”
All of these women’s experiences with a cervical screening has put my mind at ease, I was forever hearing horror stories for something which could potentially save my life as well as many other of women’s. It’s a privilege for us women to have this available for us, free, on the NHS. So why wouldn’t you?!