For some reason smear tests are something that aren’t spoken about much, and as a result the numbers of women going for these potentially life saving tests is at an all time low. Personally, I have always had a bit of a fear of having a test like this done. So much runs through your head as you’re growing up knowing this will eventually happen, however when it comes down to it its really not that bad. I want to share my personal experience of smear tests, & hopefully help answer some questions.
So first things first, lets cover the worries we all have knowing theres going to be someone prodding around ‘down there’. Nurses really don’t care, honestly, it’s just their job! They see so many lady bits throughout the day, they don’t care if you’ve shaved or not, if your legs are a bit prickly, or if you’re carrying a bit of extra weight. They’re there to do their job and to them its just another body part, no big deal!
The nurses will always talk through every step with you, especially if it’s your first one. They know you’re nervous and they do everything they can to keep you calm.
When people say it literally takes no longer than a minute, their not joking! Like I said above, the nurses do several of these a day so they know what their doing. It’s over super quickly & then you can go about with your day! The test itself isn’t painful, but it can be uncomfortable. It’s so worth it for the minute though!
The age to get a smear test in the UK is 25. You will get a letter from your GP asking you to book in once you hit 24 and a half, then once you’ve had your first one you should go back every 3 years to make sure everything is still okay.
Now the reason I wanted to do this blog post in 2 parts is because my smear test experience ended a little differently. I don’t know how much detail I’ll go into, but if you’re a little squeamish you may want to skip past this part!
So a bit of background on me; after suffering with bad periods since the age of 14 I started requesting a smear test from the age of 15. Every year I went to my GP and after speaking to them about my contraception etc I asked if I could have a smear. Every year I got told no, I had to be 25, and off I went to continue with my life. Myself and my family always had a niggling feeling there was something wrong, however as the doctors couldn’t test me I just carried on as normal.
Last year, at my contraception appointment, I was told there was something a bit abnormal with my cervix, but not to worry. I was then booked in for a smear test 4 weeks later as I had reached the age to have the test. Like everyone, I was nervous but the nurse was lovely and spoke through everything with me. Unfortunately due to the issue mentioned in my previous appointment I bled quite heavily afterwards, however this is abnormal and doesn’t happen to many women!
A few weeks past and I heard nothing from the doctors, so I made a note to call them the following week to chase up my results. Only a couple of days after thinking this I received a letter through the post. I opened it up thinking nothing of it, however the letter told me that they had picked up both abnormal cells and the HPV virus, the two things a smear test looks for. Immediately my mum phoned me and we spoke through every possibility and the next steps.
On the following Monday I called my local hospital and booked myself in for my second test, called a colposcopy. This is a more detailed look at your ‘lady bits’ where they use a camera and do a few other tests. I only had to wait 3 weeks for my follow up appointment and everyone I spoke to was so helpful. I called the hospital a couple of times to ask questions and they always gave me as much time as they could and answered all of my questions in detail.
Surprisingly, I was very calm throughout this whole process. The hardest part was telling people what was happening (I only told my closest friends & immediate family) and dealing with how they reacted. I am so extremely lucky to have amazing people around me, and had people checking on me every day as well as my best friend visiting almost every day. I trusted the NHS, and because in the back of my mind I always knew there could be something wrong I handled everything very well.
On the day of my second appointment I worked from home (I can often have bad cramping after appointments like this so thought being home would be more comfortable) and had my best friend at my flat so I wasn’t alone.
I went to the hospital, spoke to my doctor who answered every question and worry I had and then had my second test. Immediately it was clear to my doctor one thing that was wrong, and thankfully no high-level abnormalities were found. I had very minor treatment on the day, which took around 3 minutes, and then went on my way. The doctor confirmed in this appointment that no cancerous cells were present, and the virus should clear itself. I went home, had a huge hug with my best friend and treated myself to a big pizza!
Following this will have another smear test at my local hospital in a year to make sure everything is still normal. They expect the virus to sort itself out & my cells to go back to normal, however there is no guarantee of this. I will be under observation until everything is back to normal, which hopefully won’t take long!
So there we go, all of that text to summarise my first ever smear test. And you know what? Even after all of that (several tests, bad results, treatment & of course the inevitable cancer worry, even though the chance of that is soso low) it still wasn’t that bad. I don’t regret having a test, if anything I’m even more glad that I did have it done!
Ladies, I know its a self conscious thing that we all worry about, but please go get your smear test. It takes 2 minutes out of your day and could potentially save you from a horrible illness. I can’t stress enough how strongly I feel about this, please help yourself!
p.s, if anyone has any questions about smears or my experience please do get in contact. I know it’s a scary thing, and although I’m 100% not an expert, not have I been through the worst result, but I am hoping to help shift the negative stigma around this and help more women help themselves xx