Even though your smear test is a totally normal check, it can be a scary thought – people don’t talk about it very often and what is a cervix anyway? It can all feel a bit mysterious and worrying.
Let’s straighten out a few of the most common fears women have about their smear test.
It’s normal to feel a bit worried about your smear, but the thought is usually worse than the reality. Your Practice Nurse will help you relax and feel as comfortable as possible by explaining what will happen and answering any questions or worries first. It’s important to tell them if you’re anxious so they can put you at ease.
Some women find wearing a skirt to their appointment makes them feel more comfortable because it’s easy to lift up around their waist. If you like, you can take a scarf to put over your lap too, and you’ll be given some paper towels to cover yourself with.
‘I’M WORRIED IT’LL HURT.’
For most women, smear tests aren’t painful although it might feel a bit odd, especially if you’re nervous. But understanding what happens at your appointment and knowing what to expect can help you relax. Make sure you ask any questions or read about it before you go.
When you have your smear test, your Practice Nurse will ask you to lie down and let your knees fall gently apart. Then they’ll use something called a speculum to carefully open your vagina and softly brush for cells. If it does feel uncomfortable, let the person taking your smear know.
‘I DON’T WANT MY DOCTOR TO DO MY SMEAR TEST.’
You can request to have your cervical screening carried out by the Practice Nurse or female doctor.
‘WHAT IF I FIND OUT I HAVE CANCER?’
Your smear test isn’t a test for cancer – it’s a check for changes to your cervix so they can be looked into and treated before they become a problem. For most women, their smear test is absolutely fine – only about 5% need to go back for another test.
If you are recalled, don’t panic. Sometimes samples don’t show up clearly enough to read so you’ll need to do another one. And even if your results letter says your smear’s abnormal, it just means they’ve noticed some of your cells might need looking into and they want to keep an eye on how you’re doing. Sometimes, cell abnormalities go away on their own, so you might have to do another smear test in the next few months to make sure.
Just remember, cervical cancer is rare and identifying changes early can help prevent around three quarters of cases. Attending regular smear tests really could help to save your life.