Full disclosure – I’ve always been okay after a smear test. I have had two so far in my life and my results have come back normal. Other people I know haven’t been so lucky and have had abnormal results – read a blog post from Jess on her cervical screening experience here. Smear tests are something I believe every woman should get as soon as she is able to. In fact, I think they should be available from when women turn 18 rather than the age of 25 but that’s a whole other story.
I was shocked and appalled at the recent news story that smear tests are at a 20 year low – they are saying that the Jade Goody effect has now long gone. I’m sure we all remember Jade’s battle and the influx of people having smear tests afterwards to hopefully avoid the same fate. Why are we getting complacent again? Do we need someone suffering in the public eye in order to scare us into going? Why aren’t we taking steps to look after our health?
I have friends older than me that still haven’t even been for their first ever smear test. They’ve had babies and are at an age where they could be susceptible to cervical cancer yet won’t go because they are scared. I was scared the first time – I’d heard horror stories from people saying that it hurt but others said it was a minor scratch and that was it. I was nervous, I was scared but there was no chance that I wasn’t going to go for my smear test – a few moments of pain rather than suffering from cancer – I know what I would prefer. I have seen first hand what cancer can do to a person – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It’s not painful to have a smear test – but even if it was, surely a few moments of pain is much more preferable to constant suffering?
Even if you get abnormal results, this doesn’t mean you have cancer or will get cancer. Your smear test can detect abnormal cervical cells which can develop into cancer – but aren’t yet. Catching them early through a cervical screening will thus of course reduce your risk of cancer developing. A cervical screening isn’t a test for cancer, it is a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women’s test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test shows some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
Most of these changes won’t lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own but in some cases these cells need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous. There are around 3000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year in the UK.
The whole experience is over in a matter of mere minutes – I would actually say the part that is the most worrying is the time period whilst you are waiting for your results to come back. I recently had my smear test and because of Christmas, my results were delayed getting to me in the post – sometimes that can really get your mind whirring.
My results finally arrived last week letting me know the cells in my sample looked normal and my risk of cervical cancer is very low at this time. It also let me know roughly when I should expect my next screening to be. They also stipulated that if you have certain symptoms in the three years between screenings that you should speak to a GP as soon as possible to rule out anything untoward.
So why should you go and get your smear test?
It could save your life
Finding out about those abnormal cells and getting them removed if required is much better than not knowing about them and having them develop into something worse.
It can give you peace of mind
It is very likely that your results will come back normal. Surely a few minutes of being uncomfortable with your legs akimbo is worth it to know where you stand when it comes to your cervical health.
It may encourage someone else to do the same
I get it – the prospect can seem terrifying, especially when it is your first ever screening. But it isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be – the worst part is having to get everything down there out in front of the nurse more than anything! Whilst I still haven’t persuaded certain friends to go and have their screenings, me going for mine has reminded others to book theirs in which is great.
They really aren’t as bad as some people make out
As with all things, some people will have genuinely bad experiences but we all also know people who over dramatise absolutely everything. Some people will make a smear test sound absolutely torturous when it is anything but. If anything, it is a small scratch to your cervix and feeling a little bit uncomfortable for a minute or two. THAT’S IT. Nothing more, nothing less – and really nothing to be worried about.
I’ve just recently had mine but will be ready to book mine in again in 2020 when my next one is due. Have you ever had a cervical screening/smear test? Are you as shocked at the figures as I am?