The year of the smear. For me it’s been the nine months of the smears. I was due one when I was expecting my first son, I had it when he was born. It came back irregular so I had to have another one. It came back fine. So they asked me to have another one, a best of three if you will.
I couldn’t, I was expecting baby number two. I had him in December 2011, the first smear was April 2012, then October 2012 and again today. The best out of three. Again.
In the UK you are “called” to have your smear test when you’re 25. It used to be younger or as soon as you were sexually active.
It’s not the most delightful way to spend 30 seconds, but that’s all it takes. Some of you haven’t had a smear test yet, some of you have heard it hurts more than childbirth (!) some of you made appointments today to stop me from nagging.
Your test might be fine, it might have borderline cells (this can vary depending on where you are in your cycle when you have the screening). Your test might not be fine. Your test might indicate cancerous cells. Your test might very well detect it before you see any symptoms. Your test may very well save your life.
They say a natural vaginal delivery can “clear” the cervix as it all comes away, and some abnormal cells can be “lost” this way.
I took some lovely photos for you while I was there today (not of my vagina, in case you were wondering).
I’ll talk you through what happens:
Nurse: Sophie, this way please.
Nurse: Take a seat.
Nurse: You seem to like smear tests, don’t you?
Me: Oh yes, especially on cold mornings. In fact there’s nothing I like more than stripping down and having you peer up my rear end with a flood light on wheels.
Nurse: Ok first day of last period?
Me: Sixth of this month.
Nurse: Ok pop behind the screen, take your knickers and trousers off, lie on the bed and use the top piece of paper towel for modesty.
Me: Modesty? You’re about to look inside my…
Nurse: Ok, lie flat, put your feet together, creating a diamond with your legs.
She inserts the speculum. This can be metal (cold) or plastic (disposable). I’ve had both and it doesn’t make a difference. They do different sizes (smaller!) for those of you who haven’t passed human heads through your vaginas. The speculum has lubricant applied to it, it slips in and she opens it a little bit. This bit is uncomfortable, the opening part, but not painful. However, it lasts 12 seconds. I counted. She opens it and uses the soft headed swab to have a quick swirl around (this you cannot feel). She pops the swab head into a lab jar, removes the speculum and it’s all done. Really takes no more than 18 seconds from insertion to you getting off the bed.
Don’t be scared about it. It’s every three years and if they DO find cancerous cells, the likelihood is you will have caught it in time. The consequences are finding out too late.
Get yours booked. It could save your life, even if it doesn’t save your dignity.