Like most women aged 25 to 64 (who are registered with a GP) I received my letter through the post with a “Helping you decide” leaflet which gave a bit more detail. To be honest, I didn’t even read the leaflet. It’s not like its a choice to have a smear test, its a necessity!
If you decide not to have the test then you could miss the fact that you could be one of the 3000+ women each year who gets cervical cancer…”
I’m not generally one to preach, but I make an exception when it comes to smear tests. You shouldn’t be “deciding” if you have one, the only decision to be made is which day of the week you book it in for.
In 2009, reality star and mum of two Jade Goodie died just 7 months after receiving her diagnosis of cervical cancer. It is estimated that half a million women more than usual attended smear tests due to the “Jade Goody Effect” however the phenomenon seems to have been forgotten. Smear test numbers are at a 20 year low and we need to do something about it.
My letter came just after New Year and of course, you then have to struggle with getting an appointment which isn’t interrupted by Miss Monthly! I failed and had to put it back a week. Then came the snow… After being on yearly smears after 3 bad results resulting in treatment there was nothing stopping me getting to the GP today!
To be completely honest, the pre-smear maintenance is enough to send a shiver down any Mum’s spine! An uninterrupted shower on the morning of the appointment… NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!! Cue 2 urgent toilet stops and an “I can’t find my pants” episode and I finally got to lock the bathroom door!
Don’t spend too long fretting about the preening…Nurses see the lot. Including vajazzles, piercings, tats and all sorts (so I am told). Nurses simply don’t care. To them, it’s just “another day at the office.” They’ve seen it all and believe me- whatever the state of your lady-garden or your legs/pedi/period pants/ holy socks, they’re just not bothered.
So, for any of you who haven’t booked a smear or are nervous about it- this is my full and honest account…
- Arrive at doctors surgery 1.40pm, smug I managed to find time for a preen on a SNOWDAY!!
- I am called into the nurse’s room and answer a couple of standard questions (am I fit & healthy, do I use contraception, details of when my last period was etc)
- The nurse asks me to get on the bed behind the curtain and slip off my jeans, skins (IT WAS SNOWING!!!) & knickers, and place the large sheet of tissue paper over myself to cover my modesty. Once the rustling was complete she joined me behind the curtain.
- The Nurse instructed me of the optimum position- Legs bent, ankles towards bum and 2 fists under the bottom. And we are off – she’s wearing gloves and uses some lubrication so it’s really not too bad at all. Just lie back and try not to think about a total stranger (because I specifically asked for it not to be the Nurse I see in the playground every morning!) seeing you in a state of undress.
- The speculum is inserted. It’s a transparent plastic device- not big, which is used to open up the cervix. It doesn’t actually hurt, it’s just a bit uncomfortable. To take the actual smear test, the nurse gets what looks like a slightly long cotton wool bud and wipes it on your cervix to gather some cells. I could feel this but it didn’t make me flinch. This whole process only took about 3 minutes.
- The nurse then removes the speculum. This doesn’t hurt either but she did warn me that I might have a tiny bit of spotting for a few hours after the test. I didn’t!
- The nurse departs handing me a wad of tissues and then its full winter gear back on.
- 15 minutes after arriving I was heading back into the snow, job done. I always experience a very mild period pain for the next couple of hours but never anything more.
Smear tests are a fairly grotty thing that we have to do, but you see it’s absolutely vital that we do it. And I mean “life or death” vital. According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
“Every day eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three die from the disease. Yet cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to the NHS cervical screening programme and HPV vaccination programme. Shockingly in the UK 22% of women do not attend their cervical screening (smear test)”
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust are doing everything that they can to try and get women our age to book their smear, this year they have introduced a “Smear for Smear” campaign to try and raise awareness. Please get involved, use the #smearforsmear on instagram, book your appointment and remind your mates about booking theirs.