The (Dreaded) Smear Test

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

On December 8th 2014 I had the utmost pleasure of lying in a doctor’s room at 10am with my nether regions out. No this isn’t the beginning of a really bad 50 Shades of Grey fanfiction, this is the delightful tale of the embarrassing smear test.

I was invited for my first smear test at the age of 20 (in Scotland the age for cervical screening is currently 20 – 60 years old however this will change to 25 – 64 years old in 2016) but I ignored the request. The whole idea of a smear test left me embarrassed and a little nervous so I refrained from making an appointment to have it done.

It wasn’t until I was at my local health centre about a different issue that I had my smear test. As I had never made an appointment for the test I wasn’t entirely clued up on what I was being tested for or what was actually going to happen. Basically I just took my jeans off and hoped for the best.

Let’s be real here though, the idea of getting naked from the waist down, lying on a table/bed, spreading your legs and letting a stranger fiddle about in your vagina for medicinal purposes is a little awkward. You just have to remind yourself before your smear test that the doctor/nurse carrying it out is a professional and has seen many reproductive organs in their time. They won’t picture your nether regions if they walk past you in the street that’s for sure.

Once you’re past the awkward “please don’t judge my razor burns” part the rest of the test is fairly straightforward. A speculum will be used to hold the walls of your vagina so the person carrying out the test can see your cervix. Once your cervix is in view a soft brush will be used to take some samples from it. The whole test takes around 5 minutes to complete and then you’re free to put your clothes back on, pick up your dignity and leave.

After putting my jeans back on I was told my results would be with me in 2 weeks but mine actually appeared on my 22nd birthday, 4 weeks after I had had the smear test. If there is a delay in your results appearing in your mailbox I wouldn’t worry too much but if the lead time starts to get ridiculous I would start making some calls.

Now the results themselves are usually nothing to worry about. My test showed everything is “normal” down there but if your test does come back as abnormal don’t panic. Abnormal cells don’t necessarily mean anything and these cells may return to their normal state by themselves. There is a chance that the cells will have to be removed but this is really just a precaution.

If your test comes back as abnormal and HPV (Human Papilloma virus) is found you should be invited back for further tests, this will more than likely be in the form of a colposcopy. This procedure involves the use of a microscope like device (a colposcope to be exact) to examine your cervix.

If you’re nervous about having a smear test I assure you there’s nothing to worry about. Admittedly my test was a little painful but that was due to my muscles involuntarily tensing down there. So long as you breathe slowly and do your best to stay relaxed your test you should be easy and pain free.

Cervical screening is hardly the most glamorous of things but as members of the female persuasion, it’s something we have to do for our own health. We’re extremely lucky to have access to things like smear tests and it would be silly to not take advantage of this. Make sure you find time in your life to have your test done whenever you’re invited for one, it may potentially save your life after all.

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