Health · Uncategorized

Cervical Comb-over

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So, I had my very first smear test, or cervical cancer screening test. Yeah, it was weird and I decided I wanted to share the experience with you, start to finish, because I know many young women are apprehensive about having the procedure.

So, first thing is first. Booking the test? Well, you get a letter in the post. I got mine earlier on in the year, even though I was still 24. I kept putting off booking my test because I needed to see a nurse for bloods and a pill check as well anyway. I decided I would do it when I got back from a trip away. I actually got a second letter, this one had a leaflet with more information about the procedure, what happens afterwards, and requirements prior. You start getting invited around the age of 25. It is worth noting that you do NOT have to have the test if you don’t want to. It’s ultimately your decision, but please don’t use embarrassment or anxiousness as a reason to avoid it.

To book the procedure, you just call up and book in with the nurse once you’ve had the invite – the letter does tell you all this, but I’ll tell my experience regardless so you know what you can expect. Now, when I booked in, the receptionist didn’t actually tell me about the things you need to do before-hand (or rather, the things you need to NOT do). They ask that you book the test for the middle of your cycle, basically, it’s better if you’re not on your period for the test as they can get a clearer reading. They also say to not have a bath the day before and to avoid sex the night before – specifically to not use spermicide, lube or a barrier method of contraception. It’s probably just better to avoid it all together to save having to maybe need the test re-doing. If the sample is inadequate, they will call you back in three months time to take another sample. The test itself? The only thing you need to do is undress your lower half. If you wear a lose skirt, you can keep that on. The test itself only takes a few minutes.

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The nurse will ask you to lay down on the bed – I was given some of that paper stuff to put over my lap. You go spread-eagle and she (or he! you can request that a female perform the test when booking if you’re concerned) will insert a lubed up, scary looking contraption in to your fanjo. It’s called a speculum and it’s not actually scary. This basically dilates your vagina, opening it up so the nurse can see the cervix. Then she uses a little brush like pictured above to swab some cells from the cervix. This is what is sent off for testing. For me, the opening of the speculum was uncomfortable, a little painful in fact. The tenser you are, the harder it is for them to get on up there but if you’re anxious, tell your nurse. If it hurts, tell your nurse. They’re happy to take their time or to stop if you need it. It only takes a moment to collect the cells. While the speculum itself was weird and uncomfortable for me, I honestly couldn’t feel the brush. I dunno if it was because I was focused on the fact there was this woman all up in my junk and the pressure kinda made me feel like I need the loo or if it’s something you genuinely can’t feel but that was it. Brushy brushy, then she gets on out of there and you can put your junk away.The nurse advises that I may experience some spotting later on and if it happens, to not be concerned. Personally, I didn’t get any, but my ladyparts did feel a little weird for a while.

A little embarrassing? Perhaps, but it’s worth it to monitor your cervical health and potentially reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Once the sample is taken, you will get a letter back after about two weeks with the results. If the sample was adequate and completely clear, you’ll get called back again in three years. If the sample was not adequate, you will get recalled in a few months – there are loads of reasons the sample might not be adequate so don’t worry about it. Anything else? They’ll tell you in the letter what will happen. I’ve not had my results yet or anything so I cant really speak on that part.

If you want some more technical information, you can check out the NHS page on Cervical Screening. This post was a bit longer than intended but I hope it puts some of you at ease about the test.

20 thoughts on “Cervical Comb-over

  1. I don’t know I was being so stupid it took me a few years to book it. THE FEAR of not knowing is unreal and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone! x

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    1. That’s why I wrote this – I know the idea can be so daunting but it’s so quick and simple to have done. Some say it’s a bit undignified but it’s a lot worse should they ever have children. :’) x

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      1. I’ve been putting my test off for a year now, perhaps I now need to bite the bullet. My main fear? Having a very irregular cycle and worrying that I will be on my period when the day comes. The thought of lying there whilst bleeding makes me want to shrivel up and die.

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      2. I can understand the concern in that respect, but you can always call and rearrange your appointment if you start your period and your appointment is due soon if you don’t feel comfortable having it done while you’re bleeding. Nurses are frequently available and easier to get an appointment with than a doctor, so there isn’t too long to wait between booking and appt and seeing the nurse, usually, so that should make it easier to arrange it when you’re not on your period. As long as you call beforehand to let them know, they don’t mind if you have to rearrange. You won’t be the only woman who is terrified of the thought of her smear while in her period, so I’m sure it won’t be new for them if that happens. So you have an option there. Personally, I was on the pill at the time, so my cycle wasn’t an issue, but I understand the bane of an irregular cycle. Two holidays I’ve ended up spending on my period because of its unpredictability! Typical eh. Anyway, I’m rambling. I hope that makes you feel more at ease about booking your cervical screening x

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    1. Really? That surprises me. Perhaps it’s because they’re a little more foreign to male nurses (as in sensation and such) so they’re more careful and stuff… I’m not sure. That’s interesting though! I’m now realising I’ve never been at a doctors surgery that has had a male nurse before. I’ve only seen them in hospital. x

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  2. I never thought about the test. For this cancer or any other. I mean I know you she get tested but yeah, it never cross my mind that I should actually do it. I guess I always think later is fine. My family has history of cancer (bones, breast, etc) so yeah, it is something I should do. Thanks for sharing your experience. xx Corinne

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    1. I think everyone has been touched by cancer in some form, be it themselves or others. It causes so much heartache so I think it’s worth doing what you can to nip things in the bud. I put it off when I got the letter initially. Not out of fear, but because I figured I was young, I’ll probably be fine, there’s no rush. Now, thankfully my results came through all fine as I’d expected but there are many people younger than myself who have died from cancer so it is really worth looking in to. I’m glad I could get you to think about it; your health is important! x

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  3. I haven’t considered getting one done but as a 25 year old female I think it is a really good idea. I am not worried about the procedure but more worried about the possibility of finding something. Thanks for the really important information

    -Maddy (www.madfit.life)

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    1. I can understand that, but then surely it’s better to do it and find out before it’s too late? But even then, many abnormal results are actually harmless and resolve on their own. I hope now maybe you will consider it. Your health is important after all!

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    1. I’m sorry you had cancer but I’m glad you survived it! Hopefully one day we will beat cancer for good, meanwhile, survival rates are improving and tests like these help find potential cases early which improves survival chances too. Thank you for commenting! ❤

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    1. Sorry! Your comment was caught by my spam filter so I only just saw it. 😦 I’m an open book, I feel like these things should be talked about, but I can understand why not everyone might. Thank you for following! x

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    1. Haha. Oh gosh, no! Thank you so much, Rose. I wanted to be honest and share my experience because I know many women are scared and avoid it. Of course we’re all different and for some it’s more unpleasant but in my experience, it was fine 😀

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  4. In Wales you get called from 19, my first one is the only one I ever went to where I got the all clear letter. I’ve had 4 tests in the last 3 years, plus 2 procedures called colposcopy, which is the next step if you get odd results. Even that isn’t too scary, it’s in outpatients at a hospital and involves a camera instead of the brush, plus taking a biopsy so they can double check. I’m now back on the regular 3 year appointments, I have HPV which is causing odd cells, but they’re hoping they’ll have sorted themselves out by the time I go again. Sorry, long story short – go for your smear! There is nothing to be afraid of, even if you do get slightly dodgy results all of the staff are amazing and will explain everything in complete detail. Including the fact that odd results don’t automatically mean cancerous cells!

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    1. Hi! No need to apologise. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kate! I’ve had a few friends who ended up being called back for re-tests and one had a colposcopy too. She repeatedly gets odd cells but none are cancerous, she just goes more regularly. I think the first time is most scary, fear of the unknown and such. Many of my friends expressed they felt uncomfortable at the prospect of their first smear and while I was anxious, it was the anticipation that was the hardest. Now I know what to expect etc, I’m not worried for the next one. Touch wood, my results will be all fine the next time too. 🙂

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