Im turing 25. This birthday in particular seems to mark adulthood. I have been dreading the arrival of this new year because it means I will now be on the ‘wrong’ side of twenty, can no longer consider myself as early twenties and am heading full speed towards the big 3 0. If that wasn’t bad enough it also means I have had to have the oh so terrifying and elusive SMEAR TEST.
We all have friends, mums, colleagues who treat us to the horror stories they have heard over the years. Its always, ‘a friend of a friend bled for seven years after her smear’ ‘my mums, friends, sisters, boss swears it was worse than childbirth’ ‘my yoga instructors sister in law did a queef on the nurse and the shame was too much she had to move house and doctors surgery’.
Its no wonder none of us are counting down the days in excitement for our appointment. Having been for a smear now and thinking myself as somewhat of an expert I can safely say that these tales of woe are made up by a fantasist, a sadist or a Regina George type.
I mean, we can all agree, this is not the most flattering position to be in, its not the most glamorous booking in the calendar, it does feel a little bit embarrassing and is slightly uncomfortable but I can promise you there was NO pain. Not even minimal. Nothing. I was waiting for the awful part. It didn’t come.
The process of a smear test was the easiest visit to the doctors I’ve ever had and being a bit of a hypochondriac, I’ve had a few. On arrival the nurse will ask a few routine questions. You undress from the waist down. Lay on your back, legs up, knees bent. If this is very uncomfortable for you, there is the option to lie on your left side with your knees bent. Try to relax, emphasis on the word try here. The nurse will gives you constant reassurance and talk you through exactly what she is doing and when so to avoid any surprises.
They gently put a new, clean speculum into your vagina. A speculum is usually a plastic cylinder with a round end once the speculum is inside your vagina, the nurse gently opens it so they can see your cervix. Then the nurse uses a small, soft brush to quickly take a sample of cells from your cervix. This may feel a little odd, but should not be painful.
Then, done, dressed and ready to go in a mere five minuets. Not too hideous right?
Public Health England has launched a major cervical screening campaign to boost the number of women taking smear tests after attendance levels reached a 20-year low. One in four women who are eligible to take a smear test in the UK are not doing so. It is estimated that 83% of cervical cancer diagnoses could be prevented if your regular screening is attended so the fact so few people book and visit their GP for their pap is astounding.
‘Public health minister Steve Brine said women dying of cervical cancer is a ‘tragedy’, given how a simple test can identify risks early on.’
He added: ‘Improving cancer detection and diagnosis is a core part of our long-term plan for the NHS, and from April, any patients with suspected cancer will begin to receive a diagnosis or the all clear within 28 days, and £200 million is being invested to fund new ways to rapidly detect and treat cancer.’
There really is no good reason to put off booking yourself in for this potentially life saving appointment.
Book it today ladies.