Let's talk smear tests (2/2)

In aid of National Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we spoke to real women about what their smear test experience was actually like. Read part one and find out what our brand manager had to say! Many women often don't attend their smear test despite the fact it can greatly reduce the possibility of being diagnosed with cervical cancer later on in life. Here is what Charlie and Rose had to say about their smear tests.

Charlie - BeYou Follower

"Smear Test, Shmear Test!"

For some people, their birthday makes them think of cake. Or of a party. Of friends. Of balloons. Of presents. Of an exciting event. Instead, my 25th birthday made me think about my first smear test appointment on the horizon… and cake of course.

Gals 25 and over will know exactly what I’m talking about. Cervical screening AKA the Smear Test is a rather quick and a little uncomfortable (and in some cases a tad embarrassing) test to help prevent cancer. A small sample of cells are taken from your cervix to check for any abnormalities. All done in 5 mins. Easy right?

We have all heard those horror stories from the mate who turned 25 first. They tell you all about the horrendous experience they had at their first smear test. How they had cramps and bled afterwards and had to sit with a hot water bottle. How the nurse was horrible and made them feel humiliated. Oh, the joys!

I went in expecting the worst and truth be told it did start as such. My doctor greeted with me with a sweet smile, asked me when my last period was before then commanding me to strip down whilst she stood with me and didn’t give me any privacy. She didn’t explain what she was going to do, she didn’t lube up the speculum, and she wouldn’t have explained what was going to happen after if I hadn’t hurled my bucket-load of questions at her.

If I can give any advice in this, ASK QUESTIONS. What’s that plastic thingy do? What position is best? Could I have some privacy? What EXACTLY are you doing now? Is there supposed to be blood?! What happens next? Trust me, the anxiety of not knowing what on earth this person is doing to your body is the worst thing happening here.

However, the only question I really wanted an answer to was ‘Is this going to hurt?’ and that was a question that only I could answer by going through it. And I’m afraid to say I cannot provide anything new and ground-breaking. My answer is the same as most women’s, ‘It was a bit uncomfortable but ultimately it was absolutely fine! I don’t know what I was so worried about.’ Heck yeah, it’s uncomfortable. You’ve begrudgingly given a stranger permission to poke at your cervix that, quite frankly, you’ve never wanted to know what it felt like. But here I was a whole two hours fresh out of my appointment and no devasting cramps, no hot water bottle, no pain. A little twinge niggling perhaps, but I’ve got my BeYou patches on hand ready to soothe any kind of niggle that may come my way this evening, a steaming mug of chamomile tea, and the elation of knowing I don’t have to go through a Smear Test for another three years. Smear Test, shmear test.

Rose - BeYou Ambassador

"A smear test could save your life. Don’t skip it just because it’s a little bit awkward."

I recently turned 25 – which means I was invited to my first cervical screening over the summer. The NHS sends out a letter as well as a booklet explaining what happens and if a test is the right choice for you. While I knew it’d hardly be a party, it was still a no-brainer for me.

It was really easy to book at my practice, I did it online (and you should be able to too if you are in the UK and your practice is registered on something like Patient Access!) and waited. They had quite the backlog so not only was my anxiety growing, another appointment had cropped up in the meantime, so I had to cancel and rearrange.

I was feeling particularly anxious about it because I’ve had family members with pre-cancerous cells. On a more superficial level, I was worried it would be hurt (because pretty much everything does when you have endometriosis!) and I was worried it would be awkward. As if these nurses don’t see this all the time, right?

I finally made it to the appointment expecting it to be a short visit, but my cervix had other plans.

My nurse went over all of the questions she had to ask (Do I smoke? Do I drink? Is there a family history of cervical or breast cancer?) – she then asked me if I had any questions.

I asked her to use the smallest speculum she had – a tip from one endo friend to me, which I’m now passing on too – but she had to use a longer one (still small!) because I have a high cervix. At least now I know for next time!

I won’t lie, the longer speculum was a little physically uncomfortable and it was kind of awkward – both physically and a little emotionally, too! When it was finally ready though, it took all of five seconds and that was it – done. Awkwardness aside, the discomfort passed as soon as I got back up. I didn’t bleed at all afterwards, though I’ve been told it’s normal to expect some spotting. My nurse explained that it would take about seven weeks for me to get my results but that sometimes the swab doesn’t pick up enough cells, in which case they’d tell me within days that and I’d have to come back in a few weeks’ time. Fortunately, it did all work out and I did get my results in the post - everything was clear.

My endometriosis did decide to flare a few hours later and it lasted for a few days afterwards, so while the initial discomfort had passed, I was in some pain in the days that followed. It’s always hard to predict a flare and it’s hard for me to say it’ll definitely happen to other endo patients too – however, don’t miss it because you’re worried about a potential flare. My advice would be to arrange it for a day when you know you’ve got nothing on over the next few days. A smear test could save your life. Don’t skip it just because it’s a little bit awkward. Your nurse has seen it all before – there’s really no reason to not go.

We hope you enjoyed hearing about Charlie’s & Roses’s smear test experiences. You may be due to have your first cervical screening and you may be feeling nervous. That’s okay. So many women dread their first smear test so you aren’t alone. It does NOT mean you shouldn’t go. According to Cancer Research UK 63% of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer will survive and 99.8% of all cases of cervical cancer are preventable. If more women attend their smear test, more women can live happy and healthy lives for as long as possible. If you would like more information about the NHS Cervical Screening Programme you can visit their page here.

Comment below and tell us what your first smear test was like. Share this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to spread the word and encourage others to go for their smear test.

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