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My experience of cervical screening

I was originally preparing this post for cervical cancer prevention week, which I've missed by miles, but to be honest awareness of diseases like this and the steps you need to take to try and prevent or detect them shouldn't be restricted to a special week or month in the year.

Back in 2008 former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody was diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 27 years old and sadly on Mothers day in 2009 she passed away. After this we saw what has been called the 'Jade Goody effect' where the rates of women attending their smear tests shot up. Since then the number of people having their smear test has fallen each year. 

I haven't had cervical cancer myself and luckily I don't believe any of my friends or family have had it either, but I wanted to talk about my experience of smear tests to try and encourage anybody who hasn't had their test to have one. I've had three smear tests so far and I believe this year will see the arrival of my next letter as I hit 34. My very first smear test wasn't pleasant, but I want to show that I didn't let it put me off attending future tests.

Image from Pixabay

When I made the call to my doctors to book in for my first smear test I was nervous and even more nervous when it came to heading to the surgery to attend my test. I hadn't been able to get an appointment with the nurse for the time I wanted so I agreed for a doctor to do my test instead. Unfortunately with the doctor in question this was a mistake. As I'm sure you're aware a smear test involves the nurse or doctor inserting an instrument called a speculum, which can be either plastic or metal, into the vagina to hold it open and then using a brush to collect a sample of cells. As I was very nervous and so probably tense this meant the doctor had trouble inserting the speculum and she chose to deal with this by telling me 'Well you need to relax' while repeatedly trying to insert it. She eventually managed it and took the sample, but she did made me bleed. Although some bleeding is perfectly normal after your smear test. She handed me a very old fashion looking sanitary pad that was about an inch thick to pop in my underwear and off I went feeling a little sore. It was quite traumatic for my first experience and if I remember correctly when I got back to my car I burst into tears. However, I personally did not like my doctor anyway and I would often joke with my family (who also saw her as a doctor) that she might not actually be qualified because she never seemed to know what she was doing. 

Three years later my next letter popped through the door and despite my bad experience from my first test I told myself it was something I had to do and so booked my appointment. This one came and went without a problem, in fact I can't even remember having it. 

When it came to my third smear test, although there was a slight issue, the way it was dealt with by the nurse meant it was far from an unpleasant experience. When I entered the room there was two nurses and I was told one was training and was asked if it was okay if she did my test, which I agreed to. After trying to insert the speculum, which wasn't uncomfortable at all, the nurse doing my test spoke to the experienced nurse and she then explained to me that she was having a problem inserting it because my cervix is apparently tilted, making it slightly more difficult. This actually doesn't surprise me at all as I suffer from Scoliosis (side to side curvature of the spine) and Kyphosis (front to back curvature) and various parts of my body are wonky. The experienced nurse took over and asked me to lift my pelvis up, make two fists with my hands and pop them under my lower back/bottom. This would then tilt my cervix to make it straighter for them. She then carried on and completed my test with no problem. Although my test didn't run smoothly the only discomfort I felt was from trying to tilt my pelvis up with my fists under my bottom and it was far from a negative experience. 

I have three pieces of advice when it comes to your smear tests. The first is obviously to make sure you make and attend your appointments. The second would be to try and make sure you see a nurse rather than a doctor. A nurse probably spends quite a lot of their time conducting smear tests whereas a doctor might rarely do them. My final piece of advice would be to wear a skirt. If you wear trousers/jeans etc you will need to remove them and your underwear and this will leave you naked from the waste down. If you wear a skirt you just slip off your underwear but you're still covered until you lie on the bed when you'll then need to pull your skirt up, so you'll feel a lot less exposed. 

Yes a smear test can be a potentially unpleasant experience, but the vast majority of the time it's not and that couple of minutes of possible discomfort could help prevent you having to fight a battle with that awful C word and possibly the loss of your life.

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10 comments:

  1. Speculums are horrendous - I ahd a horrible bout of thrush when i was 18 and had to go and have tests done and it was absolutely terrifying, but as you said I think going to a nurse is the best way forward! Cervical smears are so important, and after the first time you have yourself tested with a speculum it's really not as embarrassing

    Steph - http://nourishmeclean.blogspot.com

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    1. It's not the most pleasant piece of equipment but in general as long as the person using it is careful I think you can barely feel it x

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  2. Great post! I wish more of us were open about our experiences as I feel like it would really help those who are scared of going xx

    Gemma ♥ Miss Makeup Magpie

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    1. I was a little nervous that talking about my bad experience would put people off but I wanted to show that even though I did have a bad experience I haven't let it stop attending my screenings x

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  3. I've been examined by doctors downstairs so many times in my life that I think I'd find a smear test fine, however I haven't yet come to my first one and it's still very nerve racking! But like you said, it's far better than having to deal with the dreaded C word x

    Just Little Things xo

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    1. I'm not sure being examined down there is something you'll ever fully be comfortable with but once you've been to your first smear it does get easier x

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  4. The letter from the doctor reminding me I'm due my second smear has been sat on the kitchen side for about 6 months now. Half the time I forget it's there and when I do remember I can't seem to psych myself up to make the appointment. Thank you for this post because it has reminded me of the bigger picture - those minutes of discomfort are outweighed by the fact you're being checked for something that could kill you if you have it. Oh and great tip about the skirt xx

    Ramblings of a Beauty Bird | Beauty Blog

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    1. Get it booked Sasha, once it's out the way you don't need to worry about it for another three years x

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  5. Thank you for this post. For some reason, the thought of a smear test makes me feel so anxious even though I have seen my mum go for them and not even bat an eyelid. Hopefully by the time it comes around, I'll be feeling calmer than what I feel atm!

    Dannie x

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    1. You probably will feel anxious before your first one as it's a new experience for you but it really is just a couple of minutes of embarrassment and then that's it for another 3 years x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, I really appreciate it x

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