Smear tests, or as they are known now “cervical screenings”, are a way to check if your cervix is healthy. It’s gained quite a bad reputation over the years because the thought of going can be so daunting, especially if you’ve never been before. It’s also quite an uncomfortable procedure for many people. And the word smear isn’t exactly appealing. But a smear test could save your life, which is why they are so important.
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Who Needs A Smear Test/Cervical Screening
Anyone between the ages of 25 and 64 with a cervix. As you get older the frequency of them drops unless you’ve had abnormalities in any of your last 3 tests. Personally, I got my letter before I was 25 and my first test done when I was 24.
What Is The Smear Test For?
Simply put, it’s a test that can help prevent cancer. The screening checks a sample of cells from your cervix for any signs of certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). If any of those types of HPV are found the sample of cells is then checked for abnormal changes. If abnormal cells are not treated, they may turn into cervical cancer.
What To Expect At Your Smear Test
It really isn’t as daunting and scary as it sounds and the nurse should make you feel as comfortable as possible. If you’re really nervous I would mention that it’s your first time and ask as many questions as you need to so you feel more at ease.
- You’ll be asked to remove your clothes from the waist down behind a screen. They’ll give you a sheet to cover yourself with, so don’t worry about being judged.
- Then you will be asked to lie down on your back on a bed. When I did mine I was told to bend my legs, put my feet together and keep my knees apart, this is standard practice. Remember if you feel discomfort or pain you can ask to change position and they’ll be happy to oblige.
- This is where it can get a little uncomfortable. The nurse will gently put the speculum (pictured below) in to your vagina. They then open the speculum to see your cervix and use a soft brush to take a sample of cells from your cervix.
- Now the easy bit, the nurse will remove the speculum and it’s all over. You can get dressed and go home. It might feel a little strange for a while after, this is totally normal. By the end of the day I had forgotten it had even happened.
How To Prepare
I would suggest wearing a skirt or a dress, something that makes it easy to get access to your bits and bobs. You’ll feel more comfortable with that than if you have to take your trousers off. The other side of this is that you want to be as comfortable as possible for this as it’s not a very comfortable things having a possible stranger conduct this test. The more comfortable you are, the quicker and easier it will be for you and the person doing the test.
Ask For A Woman To Do The Smear Test
As a first timer, you’ll want someone who knows how the test feels as well as how to do it. Men are just as capable, but for the sake of nerves and advice it’s probably better to ask for a female doctor if you’re a little anxious about your first test.
Ask For An Early Appointment
If you’re already nervous, there is nothing worse that sitting in the waiting room waiting for the appointment to start. For this reason I highly recommend you book one of the earlier appointments where they’re more likely to be running on time and probably more willing to give you a couple of extra minutes if you need it.
Generally, it’s not a sore procedure, but for some people it is. If you’re worried about it being painful take a painkiller before the appointment. There is no harm in it if it helps get you through the door. Don’t take anything else like alcohol though. It won’t benefit you.
Change Position If You’re Uncomfortable
You’ll be asked to lie down on a bed. If at any point you begin to feel uncomfortable or any pain simply ask to change position. They can, in some cases, do the procedure with you on your side.
Ask For A Longer Appointment
If you think you’ll have a lot of questions, or it may take you longer to get comfortable simply ask for a longer appointment. If it’s your first time, it’s totally udnerstandable. Not everyone feels comfortable taking their kit off for doctors or nurses and if this is you, it may take a little longer for you to get ready for the test.
Time The Appointment Around Your Period
It goes without saying that you’ll feel more uncomfortable with the test if you’re bleeding, but it can actually affect the results. For those reasons you should time the test to be when you aren’t bleeding.
Take Someone You Trust With You
They don’t have to come into the appointment with you, but if they make you feel more at ease having them in the waiting room can benefit you a lot. Having that support is always useful for doing nervewracking things. I didn’t take anyone to mine and was absolutely fine so this is really down to each individual person. This may be discouraged at the moment due to the pandemic, but it is worth asking if you can.
Ask For A Smaller Speculum Or Lubrication
You may not know this, but speculums actually come in different sizes. If the standard size is really too uncomfortable for you, you can request a smaller size. The nurse can also use lubricant to make it easier for you.
Don’t Put Off Booking Your Smear Test
The longer you put it off, the more scary and nerve wracking it will be. As soon as you get your letter phone up and make an appointment. I find that when I have longer to think about something and build it up in my head the less likely I am to do it. Just get it over with then you don’t need another one for few years.