I know you all missed TMI of the month. I do enjoy the dainty little bullet journal spreads and low-level heart to hearts, but in reality, my true passion lies in sharing intimate and overly graphic details with you guys. Let’s give the people what they want. So in honour of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, I would like to have a little chat about my first smear test, which I had about a year ago. Y’all ready for this?
Firstly, let’s consider some facts – which I have blatantly lifted from the website for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, but the truth stands:
- Every day in the UK 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer
- 3 women lose their lives from the disease every day
- Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35
- 75% of cervical cancers are prevented by cervical screening (smear tests)
- However 1 in 4 women do not attend this potentially life-saving test
All are immensely concerning, but the most concerning for me is the last fact. 1 in 4 women do not attend this potentially life-saving test, which you’re invited to take every three years from the age of 25 in the UK. This is bonkers! It’s an opportunity to check and see if everything is okay and if any action needs to be taken, before anything serious develops. So why do you think so many women are not booking their appointments? I can offer my own thoughts as I put off this very test for a full year, as I was 26 when I finally took it upon myself. I received my letter a couple of months before my 25th birthday, and I kept it in my bedside drawer with my underwear and tampons, and would tentatively re-read it each time my period came around. (Side-note: Everyone should have a vagina drawer. Treat yo vagina!)
I think what intimidated me the most was the ‘unknown’ element to the procedure, as I had never been examined down there before, and all the paranoia-induced questions it provoked in my own daft head. What’s a speculum? Let’s Google it. Oh God that looks huge. Medieval. I’ve definitely seen a torture device of that description in that museum exhibit last year. What if I’m on my period? What if I start my period while I’m there? There’ll be a person I do not know poking around between my legs and scraping my cervix with a toolkit, I’m really not cool with this. Why do they have to use the word “smear”? Does anybody enjoy that word? Is it considered uncouth to ask for more lube if things start to hurt? Is there an international non-verbal symbol for more lube?
Yep. I was quite the fool. But this is what I do, I always imagine worst case scenarios, and they terrify me. What terrified me more however, was the stories I kept hearing about cervical cancer not being caught quickly enough. I also watched a doctor having her smear test live on TV and it looked remarkably uneventful, in comparison to the nightmare I had created in my own head. So I bit the bullet, putting it off would do me no good, it was time to call the doctors’ office. Regardless of the results of the cervical screening, going as early as possible gives you the best possible chance of catching signs of any abnormalities EARLY and then going on to take the necessary actions. Isn’t that so much more promising than a tiny moment of awkwardness?
Honestly, the whole procedure was an absolute piece of cake, I regret absolutely nothing. Making the appointment was very straightforward, and when I showed up I felt an unexpected boost of confidence. I was taking an important step towards looking after my health, and I should be proud of this. I wore a skater dress and tennis shoes (easy to whip up and slip off, wink wink), and I felt ready. When I reached the examination room I saw the door was already open, and I had a slight moment of panic when I thought that perhaps they might just leave it open all the time. This moment was immediately halted when I met the nurse, who closed the door and was lovely and chatty and had a very calming Zen-like air of “I’ve seen more vaginas than you can shake a stick at, and honestly I give no fucks, so don’t worry about a thing chick.”
She told me to remove everything from my lower half as she pottered around the room, and there was a sort of tissue-paper sheet to put over my knees. I was thankful for my decision to wear a skater dress too, much less exposed. Then I had to sort of put my heels to my bum and let my legs fall apart (feeling glamorous AF), and she calmly told me everything that was going to happen. The speculum will go in, and sort of hold open the vagina, and a small brush will be used to collect cell samples. The speculum bit felt understandably a bit weird, but not a massively different feeling to putting a tampon in to be honest, and not cold or painful at all. The brush bit, I did not feel. I was not aware of it happening until she told me it was. (It was sort of a side note to her asking me if I was going anywhere on holiday this year. So where are you taking your vagina this year? How about Budapest?) Then an ever-so-slightly uncomfortable removal, and boom it was done. She packed everything up accordingly as I got dressed, she told me what to expect (a letter in about a fortnight explaining the lab results – and not to fret if abnormalities are found, it does not mean instant cancer.) We had the post-awkwardness chat of “Yeah so that happened!”, and I was on my way. Now this is just my personal experience, but here’s a link below to cover all the bases and questions I haven’t covered.
I hope this little chat has been somewhat enlightening, and if you were on the fence about booking your appointment, or your 25th birthday is approaching and you are nervous, I really hope that this will encourage you to make the phone call, because it’s one of the easiest and painless procedures you’ll go through to look after your health. Please book it as soon as you can, and be proud of yourself for doing so. Tick it off your to-do list for the year. And afterwards, I encourage you to treat your vagina to some damn nice underwear, and hey how about a vanilla latte? (please consume orally).