I had my first cervical screening this morning and whilst it’s fresh in my mind, I want to tall about my experience here.
Yes, this post is going to be too much information for some… Okay… Most! But my reason for writing about it is to try and encourage anyone out there to go and get their screenings done. I also want to reassure you that it isn’t as scary as people have made it sound.
I was inspired to write this post by Mikhila over at Miss Budget Beauty, where she recently shared her experience of a cervical screening (which you can read here). I read it yesterday before I went for my screening today and it really did help me feel calmer, so thank you for that Mikhila!
First of all I want to talk a little about WHY we have our cervical screenings.
A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. Detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells can prevent cervical cancer. (Taken from http://www.nhs.uk)
Now don’t panic when you get your Cervical Screening letter in the post! You’re not being tested for cancer, it’s just a test to make sure your cells on the cervix are all healthy. Whilst most women’s test results come back normal, 1 in 20 women’s test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
I know it sounds scary already, but keep reading. Although these abnormal changes sound frightening, not all of these changes will lead to cervical cancer and cells may go back to normal on their own. In some cases the abnormal cells need to be removed so that they cannot become cancerous.
Each year in the UK about 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed, which amounts to 2% of all cancers diagnosed in women.
It is possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women between the ages of 30 and 45. Although you won’t go for your first cervical screening until you’re 24 and a half, it is very rare for women under 25 to develop cervical cancer.
Has this already caused you to want to go for your cervical screening? Not yet? Keep reading.
All women aged between 25 and 64 are invited for cervical screening. Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited for testing every three years, and women aged between 50 and 64 are invited every five years. It is estimated that early detection and treatment can prevent up to 75% of cervical cancers. (Taken from http://www.nhs.uk)
Now I’m going to talk about my experience. I apologise for all that doctors jargon, but I wanted to get some facts out there… Not trying to frighten readers or anything, but I thought it would sound better than me attempting to explain it!
The procedure takes 5 minutes, but including having a chat with the nurse, getting onto the bed and off again the whole procedure will take max 15 minutes.
The nurse I saw was lovely and spoke me through the whole thing, telling me all about cervical cancer, cells, etc. She was really bubbly too which helped a lot, as the last kind of nurse I wanted was one who was a bit… Arsey. But I’m sure nurses as women know how awkward and uncomfortable this sort of procedure can be.
She also told me that in two weeks time I will find out if my screening will have come back as okay or if I’ll need to pop back to have some more tests done. This is something I will update readers on (well, if people wish to know).
So I took off my bottom garments, lay on the bed and popped a paper towel over myself to keep my modesty… For a while anyway. Bending your legs you get ready to “flop” them apart for the nurse to do her thing. The “flop” is the word the nurse used and it did make me laugh. It made me feel a lot more relaxed with her being so bubbly and jokey. She joked about how we all hate having it done, herself included and that did make me feel better. Plus this is someone who must perform a smear on hundreds of women a month, so she’s sure to have seen it all!
So the nurse pops a small or maybe a medium-sized speculum inside so that she can get a good look at your cervix and once she has that in view she pops in a little brush and gives it a good wiggle to make sure she has gathered enough cells on it to be read in the lab.
For me there was a slight pinching when she popped in the speculum, but it wasn’t THAT uncomfortable but that could just be my pain threshold speaking there. I’ve had a lot worse pain. The brush didn’t feel uncomfortable at all and yes I could feel it wiggling around up there but it wasn’t bad. But that just be because I was focusing on the feeling the speculum was creating.
The procedure only took 5 minutes and I was able to pop my underwear and joggers (I wanted comfort) back on. The nurse went on to talk to me about the procedure once again for my own comfort, as well as ask me a couple of questions and that was it. I was able to go home.
I won’t lie, I had put off going for my cervical screening since the summer, I’d received two letters, one in summer and then one in winter and I threw them both away and said “No, I’m fine. I don’t need this.” But when I read another bloggers post I KNEW I had to go. Katie over at Katie’s Beauty Blog wrote about cervical cancer for awareness week back at the end of January and it was an interesting read (read it here).
It really opened up my eyes about it and at the start of the week I booked my cervical screening. I’m so glad as for 5 minutes of slight discomfort I now won’t have to have another test for 3 years, AND I’ll also find out if I’m okay or not.
Is that really worth the risk of cancer? Not really. Honestly if you’re due to go, just go and do it.
I hope my post today has been inspiring. Have you a story to share about your cervical screenings? Please comment and let me know, I’d love to read and hear about them.
Until next time, take care all and I hope you’re having a good day.