Recently in our group chat, Laura reported that the uptake for routine smear tests has fallen to a 20 year low. And pretty much 100% of the team were shocked.
The government has now launched a campaign to rebrand the test. By renaming it cervical screening, the hope is that this will change the public attitude. You might be reading this wondering what the public attitude is? Well, research conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust uncovered some interesting statistics…
Of those interviewed:
- 37% thought screening did not reduce your risk of disease
- 35% of all women report being embarrassed to attend because of their body shape
- 34% had concerns over the appearance of the vulva
- 38% were concerned about whether they smelled “normal”
- 31% said they wouldn’t go if they hadn’t shaved or waxed their bikini area
- 35% wouldn’t go if they had to take time off work
- 16% wouldn’t miss the gym to attend
- 14% would rather miss a smear than a waxing appointment
- 20% would rather not know if something was wrong
- 30% of those who had never had a smear said they didn’t know where to get the test
What Happens at a Smear Test / Cervical Screening?
As you probably know, phoning your GP surgery and asking for a cervical screening is your first step. In terms of what actually happens during the screening, we’ve lifted this straight from the NHS website in order to be as accurate as possible. But urge that if you have any concerns or questions that you visit the website to see what your best referral route is, and of course, make an appointment with your GP.
- You’ll need to undress, behind a screen, from the waist down. You’ll be given a sheet to put over you. (RMS tip: wearing a skirt or dress can help make you feel a bit less exposed at this point)
- The nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart. Sometimes you may need to change position during the test.
- They’ll gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant should be used.
- The nurse will open the speculum so they can see your cervix.
- Using a soft brush, they’ll take a small sample of cells from your cervix.
- The nurse will close and remove the speculum and leave you to get dressed.
Please know that you are in full control of your experience and by feeding back to the nurse how you’re feeling (nervous/uncomfortable/pain) they can respond appropriately. At any time you can tell the nurse to stop.
Our Thoughts On Smear Tests
“For me personally, smear tests have never really been an issue. Yes, it’s a bit uncomfortable to be lying legs akimbo making small talk with a stranger. But so is lying with your mouth clamped open being asked about your holidays at a dentists visit. For people in these professions a vagina is a vagina, is a vagina. The nurse couldn’t give a toss about whether I’ve made my waxing appointment or not.
Cancer is quite prevalent in my family. And unfortunately, that’s a truth for many people. And having witnessed people fight with, die from and in the best cases survive the disease, it’s safe to say that I will do anything in my power to catch anything sinister going on in my own body early. 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable. 99.8%!!! With most cases caused by untreated infections. This… Is why it’s important. Because something as simple as an unnoticed infection can cause cancer. And you can prevent that from happening, for free, by making a very simple appointment.”
“I have been having regular smears since I was a teenager, about 16 for medical reasons. To me, it has never felt invasive or something I should be embarrassed by. It’s a quick medical procedure carried out by a professional that, by the way, we are so incredibly lucky to have available to us, let alone for free!
As I was young when I first started my smear experience I can’t quite understand why older, more wisely women aren’t making these appointments. Smears check for abnormal cells in the surface of your cervix. There are varying layers. CIN 1, CIN 2 and CIN 3. 2 and 3 carry a higher risk of turning into cervical Cancer which is why it is so very important to book in for your smear appointment. If you are found to indeed have abnormal cells you might have to go for another smear or you a Colposcopy appointment will be made for you, which is actually pretty cool because they use a teeny tiny camera and explore the area and you can watch on a screen. There are a few treatment options to remove CIN 1 or 2.
I have had both male and female professionals conduct my smears, been walked in on by another medical professional, had a smear with a baby on my lap (mine obviously) and I will only ever be grateful to have had CIN 2 removed and forever thankful I was under regular observation where my cells weren’t left to develop in to Cancer.
Please book your appointments ladies.”