I just wanted to pen a quick blog for you all about a major topic. Smear tests!
A lot of people have been asking me a little more about why did we choose the Eve Appeal for our charity for the calendar for 2017-2018 and its simple. More people need to know about women’s cancers, and why they need to be checked out. Part of this process is to make sure ladies go a see the doctor for a simple smear test. I’ve been for a few now myself (I’m showing my age now). Yes it is not the most comfortable thing in the world, and no one thinks that their vagina looks amazing, and you’re worried if you have or haven’t shaved everything OK down there but please ladies I’m begging you – put all of that out of your mind. Our own Prime Mister Theresa May has even discussed in PMQs the importance of going for your smear test (whatever your political preferences – she is completely right how important it is).
I’m going to share my experiences in the hope more of you, old and young, go to your GP and get checked out! Please note, I am based in the UK, so if you are from the USA or elsewhere, your experiences might be slightly different. In the USA, a smear test is known as a Pap Test.
How will I know if I should get a smear test done or not?
You will get a letter from your local NHS department when you are over the age of 25 to invite you for a screening. For a lot of people this will be your first invite for anything regarding your nether-regions, however I know more trusts (my own included) invited women of a certain age for other testing such as STI testing before the age of 25.
OK I have the letter, how do I book my smear test?
Ring your GP or local sexual health clinic to book an appointment. Its that simple. They will ask you where you are on your cycle, and book you an appointment based on that. Don’t worry – you don’t have to go when Aunt Flo is visiting.
Right I’ve booked it! Now what?
Time to wait until your appointment. When it comes around, if it makes you feel better wear your favourite undies, or have a trim and an extra wash but trust me, they have seen a lot worse! It is normally a female nurse who will examine you, you can request or check this when you book but I’ve never had a male nurse check me. If you feel a bit awkward about it all, you can ask your mum/sister/friend to come with you when it takes place to help/hold your hand. One tip (this will be mentioned in your letter) avoid sex if you can 48 hours before – it can interfere with the results.
Its basically a pelvic examination. A device called a speculum is put, well down there, to open your vagina a bit so your cervix can be examined. A small plastic brush is used to collect cells from the cervix. After the cells are taken, they are placed into a solution. The solution is sent to a lab for testing.
Lie back and think of England! Its best to relax and chill out. It makes it a lot easier for the nurse to get what they need to avoid the risk of having the test done again at a later date.
When all is done, just hop off the couch, give yourself a clean down, and get dressed. Done!
Is that it!? What next?
The cells they have taken are sent off to the lab to check for any abnormal cells. You will get a letter through letting you know either way – normally within 6 weeks after your test. As long as the lab have been able to test your cells OK (i.e. they are able to take enough of them) and your cervix looks healthy, then all fine – don’t have to worry about it for another 3 years.
I’ve had another letter – they couldn’t check it/something was abnormal – now what?
Sometimes a repeat smear test is needed. First things first – don’t panic about it. It could be they couldn’t grab enough cells at the original test, you may have had an infection, or they may have found something not right, but due to you going to your test they have been able to find it and act on it. You will be invited back for either another test, or referral to a hospital appointment so an additional examination to be done.
Different tests also may need to be done, such as a colposcopy which is where a special microscope is used as part of the smear test.
A colposcopy?? Eak!
What did I say about not panicking? 🙂
A colposcopy is a bit more of an extra check. It is the same as a smear test but rather than just taking cells, a magnifying instrument called a colposcope is used to have a closer look. Cells will be taken. Don’t worry – the colposcope remains outside of your bits the whole time.
I’m under 25 but something doesn’t seem “right”, or I’ve not long been tested and something has changed – should I wait?
Would you wait if it was anywhere else on your body? NO! Do not wait! Isn’t it better speaking to a doctor or a nurse for 10 minutes to put your mind at rest rather than stress out about it and ignore it? Or allow something which is small and treatable the chance to turn in to something nasty? If you get any bleeding between periods, get checked out. Speak to your GP! Push to have a smear test done.
And that’s it! I hope this puts a few people’s mind at rest regarding smear tests!
Have a watch at this short video discussing what happens during a smear test.
Until next time.