I have had more smear tests than most people my age. I have had more people than I would like to count examining my cervix, and I thought I would pass on some of my top tips for having a happy smear.
1.Feel lucky. We (in the UK) live in a country that activitely and freely tries to prevent cervical cancer. Clearly, no check is 100% accurate, but gosh aren't we so lucky to have the system trying to keep our cervix safe?
2. They are not checking for cancer, but cells that could, maybe perhaps one day become cancerous. How awesome that science allows us to track these changes! So don't get hung up on the word 'cancer'. They are checking your cervix's health. We all want happy cervixes.
3. Consider wearing a skirt. You will be asked to take your shoes and trousers and knickers off. The nurse may then take a little while to get the equipment ready, and if you're just lying there you may feel a little 'naked'. If you wear a skirt, you can keep yourself covered right up until the nurse is ready.
4. Do not worry about your hair or what your labia/vagina looks like. Nurses really have seen it all, and they just want you to be happy and healthy. You look normal. They really don't care. They just want to get a sample, and check your cervix out. Whether you're embracing your bush, or keeping it smooth, the nurse does not care.
5. There are different sizes of speculum, and you may be tempted to ask for the smallest one. However, using the smallest one can make it trickier for the nurse to get the sample they need, which may make it last longer. The smallest one can help some people, but not everyone. Ask your nurse if you're not sure.
6. If you are nervous, say so. Say it before you start taking your clothing off, so that you feel less vulnerable.
7. It clearly won't feel pleasant, but it really won't be as bad as you may imagine. It is hard to relax, but it does help relax the muscles, so if you can keep chatting, or thinking about other things it may well make the whole thing a little more pleasant.
8. If it really hurts, say so. Be explicit with what you want. If you want the nurse to just stop, say clearly stop. If you want them to take it out, say so. It is your body and you are always in control over what happens to it.
9. If you want to, reward yourself once its all done! Have a coffee, buy a new magazine, or have a yummy bath. You are looking after your cervix - well done you! I'm always shocked by how many women do not have their smears when they are supposed to.
10. The results. The NHS website has this information:
''If you have abnormal results, you may be told you have:
- mild or slight changes (mild dyskaryosis),
- moderate cell changes (moderate dyskaryosis), or
- severe cell changes (severe dyskaryosis).
Dyskaryosis is a term used to describe the changes to the cells.
Your results may also refer to CIN. This stands for cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia and is the medical name for cervical changes.
- CIN 1 refers to mild changes,
- CIN 2 refers to moderate changes, and
- CIN 3 refers to severe changes.
All these results show that you have pre-cancerous cells. This does not mean that you have or will get cancer. It just means that some of your cells are abnormal and, if they are not treated, they may develop into cervical cancer.''
I have had CIN 3, severe cell changes, and had the treatment, and now have smears every 6 months. How lucky am I that I live somewhere that I can treat something before it gets dangerous? With smears so regularly now my little cervix feels very looked after!