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.
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.