This week it’s National Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. At the age of 25 women in the UK are offered a smear test which tests for signs of HPV and cervical cancer.
This NHS scheme is crucial in spotting cervical cancer early and preventing the disease from developing, ensuring many more women can live a long and healthy life. However, smear tests do get a bad rap. Many women worry if it will be uncomfortable or even painful. To debunk your smear fears we asked a few women from the BeYou community who have had their smear test and what it was actually like.
Kat - BeYou Brand Manager
"I actually felt almost silly for working myself up so much when this seemed as normal as brushing your teeth or washing your face to the nurse."
Moving cities, and therefore doctors, around the time of my 25th birthday, meant that I was able to dodge my first smear test until a few years later. That might sound awful when so many women are campaigning for the age of the first test to be lowered, but I was terrified of the whole process and continually tried to push it to the back of my mind whenever it was mentioned. Luckily, I have a group of friends who, when I admitted I had been avoiding it, were horrified, and all but forced me to make an appointment.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what scared me the most. Obviously, the idea of being up close and personal with a complete stranger didn’t fill me with joy, but the prospect of finding out something, in fact, was wrong, after leaving it so long, incited feelings of dread. Maybe it was better not to know if there was a problem?
Either way, I set off to my appointment and was greeted by a lovely nurse who, as I nervously jabbered away to her, reassured me she’d seen it all before. That sounds like a cliche, but as she talked me through the process, it was clear that this was as routine as any other appointment for her. I actually felt almost silly for working myself up so much when this seemed as normal as brushing your teeth or washing your face to the nurse.
Everyone’s experiences of the actual process itself are different, but for me, it was fine - so much so, it’s hard to even remember the specifics now, a couple of years later. Rather than painful, the overriding feeling was that the speculum was very cold, which made it a little uncomfortable but not too unpleasant. The nurse chatted away throughout which put me at ease - I think having such a great nurse really helped my experience.
After it was over, a couple of minutes later, I headed into work for the day. Yes, it felt slightly odd - less uncomfortable, and more a lasting cold sensation - but this soon went away and I got on with my day as normal.
My issue was, being a worrier, I obviously spent the next couple of weeks in turmoil about what the results may be, cursing myself for leaving it so long. Thankfully, however, though there were a few abnormalities, the letter which arrived summarised that there was no immediate cause of concern.
I know it can be incredibly nerve-wracking but if there is anyone reading this who is putting off going for their test due to nerves, I would urge you to please bite the bullet and book your test. Yes, it is scary, and it may even be painful or uncomfortable, but waiting for your results knowing you have put it off for a few years is awful, and ultimately no amount of nerves is worth risking your life for.
Shelly - BeYou Ambassador
"I can't thank the nurses and staff of the NHS enough, for making my experiences with cervical screenings so easy"