Cervical screening prevents 75% of cervical cancers from developing yet one in four women don’t attend. Cervical Screening Awareness Week (CSAW), which runs from Monday 11 – Sunday 17 June, aims to increase awareness and make it easier for everyone to take up their smear test invitation. If you’re intimidated by a smear test, we’ve enlisted Hannah Witton, Sex & Relationships Vlogger & Author, to share her experience of a smear in all its candid detail to quash any fears you may have.
“I got The Letter from my GP saying it was now my time for my first smear test a few months before my 25th birthday. It felt like a rite of passage into adulthood, almost as exciting as receiving your Hogwarts letter.
Instead of waiting until after my 25th birthday, I booked my appointment as soon as I got The Letter because I’m a keen bean when it comes to these things. I’ll be due my second smear next year – and, quite honestly, I can’t wait!
How to book a smear test
The whole process was super easy. I called up my GP and told them I’d received The Letter and wanted to book my appointment. This is one of the many points you can ask lots of questions. I also received a booklet explaining everything I needed to know, which I would highly recommend reading cover to cover. It covered why the test is done, what it’s looking for (abnormal cells), how the test is done (including diagrams) and what happens next with statistics. It was so reassuring to read. Knowledge is power and being given all this information made me feel in control of my body and what was going to happen.
I’d heard a lot about smear tests from other people in my life, TV and movies, and it’s always made out to be really painful. So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. But I also imagined that the pain is probably exaggerated. A year after my smear test I had the coil put in (that was more painful and even then it was fine).
10 things your gynaecologist is really thinking but doesn’t tell you
What happens at a smear test
When I arrived for my appointment, the nurse practitioner was really friendly and asked me a bunch of questions like: ‘have I had a smear before, when was my last period and am I on any contraception?’. I then stripped down my bottom half and she gave me a sheet to cover my lap for ‘modesty’ reasons. I’m not sure how necessary this is when she’s about to be all up in my business.
She talked me through what was going to happen and then put lube on the speculum (she called it jelly but we all know it’s basically medical lube). To be honest, the speculum was the most uncomfortable thing about it. Once it’s inside, she clamped it open so she could get full view of my cervix to do the test. It’s so weird to think she’s seen a part of my body that I have never seen.
She took a brush type thing and inserted it and scraped my cervix for cells to send off for testing. I barely felt it and that was the part I was worrying about the most! It took just a few seconds and it was over. But the main discomfort (I wouldn’t even call it pain), was from having the walls of my vagina pushed open for a good minute.
Smear test results
I had a bit of cramping afterwards and the lube made my knickers feel wet. The nurse mentioned I might experience some bleeding but that didn’t happen for me. And then two weeks later, another letter arrived to tell me the test came back and I had no abnormal cells.
I’m so glad I did it. To be honest, my routine six-month appointment to the dentist is much, much worse than a cervical screening. Get checked!”
For more information on getting a smear test – and what it means if you have abnormal cells – read our writer’s account.
Hey It’s OK…To Have Abnormal Cells: With Katie Snooks and Shannon Peerless