We are here to talk about cervical screenings. If you follow us on Instagram you will know we have talked a lot about smears & cervical screening awareness. Our friend Charlie took over out stories last month, sharing her experience with ovarian cancer and it sparked a incredible conversation amongst our online community.
We asked on our stories if people with cervix’s would be willing to share their experiences with smears – particularly their first smear!
TRIGGER WARNINGS; SEXUAL ABUSE AND BIRTH TRAUMA.
The only thing I did to ‘prepare’ myself for having my smear test was to have a shower before I went to the doctor so I was all clean and fresh for my nurse. I arrived for my appointment, we had a little discussion beforehand asking when I last had my test which I explained was three years ago and that I was here because I had a letter sent to me. She popped the curtain over, I removed my leggings and knickers and led on the bed with a little sheet over myself. Funnily enough we started talking about holidays and we were chatting about that throughout the entire procedure. I could feel the speculum being inserted and the brush going around as she was collecting the cells. It was not painful for me personally but, there was a little bit of discomfort for honestly 5 seconds maximum.
The fact that she was talking to me throughout the entire procedure made me feel so relaxed and comfortable and, she was super professional and made what could’ve been an anxious experience very relaxed and calm. She explained that the cells would be sent off to look for abnormal cells and that if I did have abnormal cells that I would have to go to the hospital for further testing but this did not necessarily mean that they were cancerous. I should get my results in 2-3 weeks but if I had not heard anything in a month I am to ring for my results. My experience went as well as it could’ve and I put that down to my nurse who was really lovely and made me feel relaxed and at ease throughout.
It’s funny that I have been holding off my smear tests for many years (I know it was not right). But somehow, I could not gather the courage to even book an appointment for it. Now, one would think why do you need courage to book a simple test? Well, firstly I am not only uncomfortable with showing my private part to a nurse but felt rather embarrassed. That too after knowing fully well, that it is an everyday thing for the nurses and doctors. It just so happened that I had gone to my surgery/ clinic for a doctor’s appointment for an illness & the doctor was surprised I had not taken my smear test. She explained to me the importance of the test & advised me to book an appointment asap. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and I booked my appointment for the smear test for the following day.
I was very nervous & sceptical about the test even after the doctor explained to me the whole procedure & its benefits. So, after I arrived in the clinic for my appointment, the nurse probably gauged by the look on my face that I was nervous & tried to comfort me with kind words & explaining to me that there is no need to be scared. She advised me to just relax & take a deep breath & it will be over in a jiffy. That was a good reassurance for me. The nurse then told me to get on the bed with my pants down. The nurse started the test & within 2 minutes she said we are done, pull up your pants. I was shocked! What? Done already? That was even quicker than a jiffy. During the test, I just felt a little weird tingling sensation, but no pain. I felt so guilty that all this time, I avoided this test which was not painful & took less than 2 minutes. I thanked the nurse profusely for being so kind & for giving me this wonderful and positive experience of the smear test.
Cervical screening tests are available to all women or anyone with a cervix in England from the age of 25-64. If you are pregnant, NHS guidelines state you should wait at least 12 weeks after giving birth as pregnancy can make it harder to get clear results.
Three months after I’d given birth to my little girl a letter came inviting me for my cervical screening test. Although it had already been three months it only felt like yesterday that I’d given birth in a labour that lasted three days. Twenty six hours of those I was in hospital wired up to a drip having what felt like every member of the maternity ward having a feel and poke around and what would eventually end up in a forceps delivery and needing stitches. Obviously at the time you don’t mind, you just want the baby here safe and sound and will do/accept anything to make that happen. But in truth I felt all touched out and the thought of going for an invasive examination filled me with dread.
I know the importance of going for these tests. My last routine smear resulted in me needing an colposcopy where abnormal cells had been found, a worrying and scary time but the procedure lasted less than half an hour and in a follow up test results came back as normal. Still I couldn’t book the appointment straight away.
The letter stayed on the side niggling in the back of my mind for a couple of weeks before I plucked up the courage to book the appointment. A week later I stood in the doctors car park. I’d left Elena with my mum (she’s in our bubble), I phoned the surgery to let them know I was here as is protocol with the covid rules. The nurse came out to me. I masked up and followed her into the surgery and hand sanitizer on my way in. Once inside the nurse sat me down and explained that I’d get the results in a couple of weeks by letter. She advised that they also check for the HPV virus now at the same time as checking the cells. She explained if I’m HPV negative and the test comes back as normal I’ll be invited back in three years time as is routine. If the cells are normal but I test positive for HPV I’ll be invited back in a year’s time for another cervical screening test as HPV can increase the risk of cervical cancers but it shows no symptoms. It struck me how much the science had changed in the few years since I’d last been and the nurse said they’ve seen a huge difference in cases being caught early and dealt with in time. Once I’d agreed that they could test for HPV It was time to strip off and lie on the bed. As I got into position I did some breathing techniques I’d practiced for labour to help me relax and stay calm. Bright lights on, the nurse masked and gloved up, I closed my eyes, concentrated on my breathing and all I felt was a sharp scratch and it was all over in a matter of minutes before I knew it I was dressed and back outside where I met my Mum and Elena.
We went for a walk in the sunshine and I’m left wondering why I felt so nervous, embarrassed and uncomfortable, when in reality it’s not that bad at all. I guess it’s natural but for these health care professionals it’s their job. They do and see this kind of thing every day. That nurse would have just got back on with her day and not given it a second thought. There have been concerns recently that the pandemic has meant that women don’t feel safe going for their appointments and are consequently missing them. I can honestly say I felt safe with the procedures that had been put in place. The hand sanitiser, wearing a mask, no one in the waiting room and the only other person I saw was the nurse who did the test and she was wearing a mask and gloves and kept her distance when she could.
I don’t know where I’d be now if I hadn’t gone for that screening 4 years ago, the cells might have righted themselves or they could have developed into something nastier. There’s no way of knowing but I do know it wouldn’t have been worth the risk. Even in today’s environment. I know that as women and especially mothers we’re not the best at putting ourselves first, but the truth is we’re nothing without our health so please, if you’re due, book your cervical screening test.
Before I had ever had a smear test the thought of having one made my stomach feel sick and go into knots. I guess I didn’t really understand what a smear test was and how important it was to have it done until I actually went to my first appointment.
I had my first smear at the age of 25 and I remember asking someone what it was like and what happened in order to help me prepare myself for my visit to the GP. Even though I knew what to expect I still felt nervous.
I remember being called in and my stomach had butterflies , I laid down on the bed and had to take my bottom half of clothing off and put a piece of tissue over myself letting the GP know I was ready. The GP told me to open my legs apart and try to relax and I was thinking to myself how can I relax when your doing this to me . Really?
Deep breaths in and the doctor did my smear i remember thinking “ this isn’t as bad as I thought “ a little uncomfortable but it was done within 5 minutes time .
After it was done I got asked to slowly sit up but felt absolutely fine. All I had to do was wait for the results to come back and although that was a worry itself I knew having a smear was the best thing and now it’s a piece of cake when I have to have another.
ANONYMOUS – TRIGGER WARNING SEXUAL ABUSE
They say that if you’ve given birth, having a smear test should be nothing. I don’t know if I agree but then my pain threshold is so low even after have two beautiful babies! I would say it is uncomfortable and I find it slightly painful too. It feels longer than it actually is but the good thing is that it’s every three years and once you’ve done it, it’s done. A very important check for all women. And the experience is different for everyone!
I was 22 when after having a check up after the birth of my twins they found an ‘abnormality’ therefore I was sent for a smear test. The smear test itself was over within 3/4 minutes, no pain and just the feeling of the tool used. I wouldn’t have any negative comments towards the actual procedure and if I listened to girls’ fears and let them in my head there would be a chance I would have not gone and who knows I may have had a different ending to my story.
I received a letter telling me I had a positive HPV test which is a virus that most people have without releasing however sometimes it has long lasting effects. For me this was the case, I then spent the next few months having biopsies and a procedure called a LEEP procedure.
I have regular check ups and smears I never second guess them anymore because this one smear potentially saved my life. I would have never been able to carry my third child and I’m thankful everyday.
We hope you enjoyed reading a variety of cervical screening experiences! If you are due for your first smear, we are sending you lots of love as we know how daunting it can seem!