et's talk about cervical health - cervical screening - smear test - new lune

Let’s Talk About Cervical Health

I was debating whether or not I wanted to share my experience on here or on my Instagram Stories but at the end, I opted for my blog. I know I have a diverse audience ranging from teens to adults both male and female that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to use my platform to raise awareness for a good cause.

I don’t think health should be a taboo topic to discuss, especially when it comes to our own health. I always say this, we only have one life! So I had a cervical screening recently mostly known as smear or pap test and to be completely honest, it didn’t really go down as I imagined and that’s pretty much why I wanted to share my experience.

I hope that my experience will help other women whether that’s your mum, sister, partner, friend or even yourself! So as always if you’re interested then keep on reading!

Related: Make A Difference

 

WHAT’S A CERVICAL SCREENING?

A cervical screening is a test your doctor or nurse does to check your cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina) for any cells that are not normal. In the UK and France, all women and people with a cervix at the age of 25 would be invited by letter to book an appointment. The age can vary depending on the country you are from. Usually, you would receive a letter 6 months before your 25th birthday. Smear tests are not usually given to people under 25 but you’d have to go private and pay if you want one done.

During the appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix and it’s tested for changes to the cells of your cervix. Doing a cervical screening is one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer. Note that it’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer.

If they find abnormal changes, they can be monitored or treated early so they don’t get a chance to turn into cervical cancer. You’ll usually receive your results by letter in 2 to 4 weeks.

 

THE TEST

As you know after I moved out and taking into consideration with everything that happened in my life, I started to realise how precious life is and I really wanted to make my health a priority. I’ve always given importance to my education and other things in my life but never to myself. I started doing research on cervical screening since I was 19, that’s pretty much when I found out what a cervical screening was.

Most women don’t attend their first appointment neither the second nor third for multiple reasons. That’s the reason why so many women share their experience after their appointment to break the stigma around it. I’ve read so many people’s experiences over the past few years so I pretty much knew what I was expecting when the time came for me.

So long story short, I booked an appointment and the nurse called me in. I have to mention that I had a very lovely nurse, she made sure that I was comfortable and relaxed throughout the appointment.

She first asked me some basic questions for example when I got my last period and if I was sexually active. A general round-up of my vaccinations and she asked me if I had any questions. Since I’ve read a lot of people’s experiences about this subject, she didn’t have to talk through about the test and I must say she was very impressed about the fact that I was already aware of so many things and knew so much about this subject.

When I had to book this appointment, all my worries were completely different. This might be TMI but I was due on my period that week and I had discharges so I felt super embarrassed about that but she reassured that it was completely normal and at the end of the day, that we are all women so there was nothing to be embarrassed about.

I have a low pain tolerance so I was definitely worried about the pain but not as much if that makes any sense because I had read so many people’s experiences and most people didn’t find it painful at all.

There are so many things thrown around when it comes to a smear test that this happens and that happens, you should do that and that you should do this, and I pretty much wanted to break apart those facts. Obviously this is based off my personal experience.

 

IT WILL FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE BUT IT’S NOT PAINFUL

It was absolutely wrong in my case. When I had read other people’s experiences, everyone pretty much said the same exact thing! They felt a bit of pressure and discomfort. It wasn’t in any way painful, the only part that was uncomfortable was when the nurse used a soft brush to take a sample of their cells from the cervix.

When the nurse used the speculum, let me tell you – the pain was unbearable! I thought it wasn’t normal because everyone said it shouldn’t hurt and I immediately told her to stop and wait a couple of seconds then to continue.

Once the test was done, I felt lightheaded and I thought I was going to faint for a second. I felt pain throughout that day in my cervix. I pretty much was able to feel where she used the brush to take a sample of my cells that’s how much I found it painful. I took paracetamols that night and then went to bed, and I didn’t feel a thing the next day.

 

THE TEST ONLY TAKES LESS THAN A MINUTE

I’d say it even takes less than a minute! The entire appointment lasted for 20 minutes and the test only took less than a minute to get it done. When I look back, the 19 minutes were spent discussing and me undressing and getting dressed again. The nurse was super quick!

 

WEARING A DRESS WILL BE EASIER

I’d definitely recommend to wear a dress if you can. There was a heatwave when I had my appointment so it was really hot outside and wearing a dress was just convenient to me.

But when undressing from the waist down, wearing a dress or even a long tee will make you feel more comfortable when lying back on the bed. The nurse didn’t give me a sheet to put over me so the fact that I wore a dress made me feel a lot more comfortable.

 

YOU’LL GET SOME SPOTTING AND MIGHT BLEED AFTER THE TEST

Yes! I mean it’s something you’d expect, I had some spotting that day but I didn’t have any heavy bleeding.

 

YOU DON’T NEED TO GET A CERVICAL SCREENING IF YOU ARE A VIRGIN

The common misconception I’ve heard was that if you were’t sexually active or have never been sexually active that you don’t need to have a smear test which is completely absurd.

Yes, you have a very low chance of getting abnormal cells meaning a low risk of cervical cancer but that doesn’t change the fact that you could have abnormal cells and have a risk of getting cervical cancer.

The same goes with the pain, as I mentioned previously if you’ve never been sexually active, your smear test will be very painful. But it’s completely worth it, it could save your life!

 

DON’T WORRY IF YOU GET AN ABNORMAL RESULT

I don’t really hear people talking about the aftermath but don’t worry if you get an abnormal result. Most of the times, those cells go back to normal and you’ll be asked to attend another cervical screening after a year. Or you’ll be asked to go for a colposcopy at a hospital. From there on, depending on your case you’d either get a treatment to remove those cells or you’d be asked to come for another coloposcopy to check if you still have any abnormal cells.

 

BOOK A SMEAR TEST!

I really think it’s a no-brainer that attending a cervical screening will literally save your life. A lot of people share their honest experiences in order to make other women feel comfortable doing a smear test but sometimes we forget that our bodies are different and we might not have the same experience.

I’m the type of person that can prepare myself mentally if I know what’s coming. In this case, I blindly trusted so many women’s experiences when it came to the level of the pain.

In my case, I’d say my appointment went really well except the fact that it was very painful. But remember, most women only feel a tiny bit of discomfort so there’s a high probability that you won’t even feel a thing!

Here are some tips or things I wish I had known before attending my cervical screening:

  • Make sure to take a paracetamol or any types of painkillers before or after your cervical screening if you have a low pain tolerance or experience pain.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, discomfort or simply can’t handle the pain anymore, tell the nurse to pause for a minute.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed to ask any questions!
  • The test only takes less than a minute so don’t waste your precious time worrying or stressing about it.
  • Don’t forget that you only get a smear test done every 3 years so go get it done!

 

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING!

xo N

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21 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this brave and informative piece. Yes, we all need to take care of our bodies, no matter how hard the process feels.

  2. I like how in depth you went into your personal experience. It was helpful to hear what was good and bad about keeping up with your health. Definitely a priority.

  3. It’s interesting to hear the differences where you live. In the States, I got my first test at 18, mostly just to get a baseline reading (I was still a virgin at the time). Also here, you can’t get BC pills without a test so you can start getting the tests done well before 25, and it’s covered by insurance.

    I’ve also NEVER had anyone but a doctor or nurse practitioner/PA do the test and I’ve even gone to places like Planned Parenthood when I didn’t have insurance. We also have to fully undress and put on a hospital robe as we get manual breast exams done at the same time…

  4. Thank you for sharing this and reducing the stigma around something which shouldn’t be a taboo topic, it’s so wonderful that you use your blog for a multitude of things, and you really help so many people xx

  5. Good on you for lifting such an important issue. As women, our knowledge about genealogical cancers is so lacking. With Cervix cancer 70% diagnosed survive if found early though a pap smear. If not, it’s one of the deadliest forms of cancers for women and responsible for a huge number of deaths. I should know, my mother died, age 56, ten-months after being diagnosed.

    Had she prioritized her health and had regular pap smears, and had she known her symptom, which she dismissed as going into menopause, were the same as cervix cancer she might still be alive.

    Don’t ignore your gynecological health. Have regular pap smears!

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