5 things you need to know about getting your smear
A cervical screening test, also known as a smear test is so important for detecting early signs of cervical cancer - it’s not a direct test for cancer but a test to help prevent it. If you’re between the ages of 25 to 64 you will be invited by letter. So many of us women don’t attend our smear appointments due to fear, the unknown or embarrassment. We're breaking down everything you need to know about getting your smear, so you can head to your appointment in the know and avoid the smear fear…
According to the Lady Garden Foundation around 3,100 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year - early detection is vital for treatment, which makes attending your appointment so important.
Research by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust carried out an online survey in 2016, they found that 71% of young women who delay or don’t go for smear tests do so as they feel scared, with 75% also feeling vulnerable at the thought of attending their appointment. Embarrassment however, is the main reason for women not attending with a staggering 81% feeling this way, and a further 67% not feeling in control.
Top Tips if you have the ‘Smear Fear’:
Having the knowledge ahead of your smear will help you understand what to expect, what it is you’re going for and, why...
Many think that smears are actively looking for cancer whereas they're designed to detect mild changes in the cells of the cervix. It tests a sample of cells for infection with a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV) - which, if they’re untreated, could lead to cancer later down the line.
A couple things to note when you arrive:
- The nurse will ask when your last period started
- They will ask if you’re on contraception or taking HRT
- Let them know if you have any concerns, they will want to make you feel as comfortable as possible
- The procedure is very quick, safe and painless
- A speculum is inserted into the vagina and opened a little so the nurse can see the cervix. The nurse will apply a small brush around the opening in the cervix a few times (this will sweep some of the surface cells onto the brush)
- This brush will then be put into some liquid and sent to the lab
- You may bleed a little post appointment, but this is nothing to worry about at all
Request a female nurse
If it makes you feel more comfortable, request a female nurse to do your smear
Dress for the test
If you’re feeling a little embarrassed or the fear of removing your clothes is a little too much for you, we’d suggest wearing a dress or a skirt so it is easy to remove your pants. But, if you forget, don't worry - if you feel too exposed after removing your trousers just ask your nurse for a sheet of paper towel
You do not need to shave for your smear
Go along to the appointment as if it was a normal day for you. If you want to take a shower prior to your appointment to make you feel more confident on the day by all means do, but this isn't a necessity. I know that it seems really embarrassing for you, but I promise your nurse won’t be phased by anything, this is their everyday job!
Time your appointment with your period
You cannot have your smear on your period so make sure to book accordingly
It is normal to feel nervous but try to relax your muscles to make the testing easier (take deep breaths and talk to your nurse about something else). If the test is too painful, do let the nurse know as they can suggest another position which may be more comfortable or they can use a smaller speculum. It is useful to know that if you have vaginal dryness use moisturiser 3-4 weeks before your smear but stop using this 3 days before the test.
Take someone with you
If having someone with you makes you go to your smear, do it!
You should receive your smear test results a few weeks post test. If any abnormalities are found, further tests may be necessary, but most smear tests come back normal.
Raising awareness for the importance of getting your smear tests is something we at Free Soul are extremely passionate about. We want to inform our community and encourage you ladies to get checked - you’ve got this.
For further information and guidance on smear tests click here