The letter lands on your door step, with the bleak reminder your 3 years is up, it’s time for your smear. I dread it just as much as anyone and lay the letter to the side thinking it might go away. A few weeks later a reminder arrives telling me that I haven’t booked my smear. I pluck up the courage and book an appointment. The week running up to it, I’m contemplating cancelling the appointment. The day before I remind myself to make sure I have waxed/shaved all the necessities and picked out a decent pair on knickers.
The day of the of the smear your sitting in the waiting room dreading your name being called. Too late the nurse is looking at you and smiling your up next. We go into the room and she starts discussing things like smoking, diet and exercise. All I’m wishing is that she would hurry up and perform the smear! She weighs me and takes my blood pressure, as it’s good to be reminded how overweight I currently am. To make things worse the nurse is an ex colleague, being a nurse, these things are hard to avoid. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the gloves and equipment needed for the procedure. You would think after having 3 kids this would be a walk in the park, as when I was in labour there was more than one pair of eyes gaping down there. Every passing midwife and her dog would pop in to see the head crowing, also invite your husband for a glimpse too! Why not.
This doesn’t make the situation any easier, your still nervous about this stranger getting a glimpse. She asks you to remove everything from the waist down and cover yourself and your modesty with a sheet the size of a postage stamp. Oh, the dread as you take off your trousers and pants. Socks off or on? Who knows? Where do you put them, do you fold them? I lay on the bed waiting for her. Do I part my legs or wait till she says? Oh, hurry up I’m thinking! I’m ready I say, ready as I’ll ever be.
She’s asking me to put ankles together and knees apart… here we go the worst bit…and of course she switches on the extremely bright light, too in she goes. I lay there in total embarrassment wishing the ground would swallow me up. A few seconds feels like an eternity. Why is she taking so long is she lost? Can’t she see the cervix? Can you sit on fisted hands she says. Next thing I hear your all done, you can get dressed. All complete in less than 3 minutes, she’s out and telling me to get dressed. Few the relief, what was all the fuss about. I worried a whole week running up to that! There was a period of years in my life where I had to get smears done every 6 months much to my delight as my results always showed borderline changes. It was Just this year I received the all clear for my 5 yearly due to the new recall system changing from 3 years.
I feel your anguish as you come into my treatment room. I’ve been there too! I want to make this as pain and embarrassment free as possible. I don’t care if you shaved your legs or your bikini line as I don’t even notice, or if your pants are a decent pair. If you want to keep your socks on that’s fine! Taking a smear is not as strait forward as your think. Depending on the time of your cycle the cervix can be quite difficult to find. That’s when I would ask you to sit on fisted hands to tilt the cervix to make it easier to see. So trust me once I’m in there the clock in my head is ticking to find that cervix take the sample with the green brush and get out asap. The aim of the game is to obtain cells from the cervix with the brush and send them off to the labs for testing. If I don’t obtain enough cells on the brush at the time, you may have to come back a second time for another smear test. I try to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I can’t emphasise enough ladies by the end of my day I can perform up to 6 smears, along with all my other appointments. So believe me when I say this I hardly remember what your face looks like never mind if you’ve plucked your nether region to perfection, or the colour of your knickers. I know your anguish as I’ve been there many times and can empathise with you in that vulnerable in this situation. Its your smear and you are in control at any time, we can start and stop.
2 Women lose their lives to the disease everyday
9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer everyday
75% of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening
Statistics from Jos Trust
For the first time in 20 years smear uptake is at an all-time low. Screening saves around 5000 lives in the UK each year. Cervical screening if now changing and if you receive a satisfactory result you won’t be tested for 5 years. Things are changing the way the smear is processed. As we are now checking for HPV virus- Human papillomavirus. It’s a very common virus transmitted through sexual contact, and high risk types of HPV are linked to the development of abnormal cells which can cause cervical cancer. It has been proven that testing for HPV now it is an improved way of identifying women at risk of cervical cancer other than the original (smear test). For you ladies it’s the same test. Just means in the labs they are checking for different cells.
Let’s raise awareness ladies and encourage others to book their smear test today.