Today, I went through a pivotal moment for any woman. Today, I had my first pap smear test.
Unlike my friends, I actually booked my test straight after I received my way-less-fun-cancer-related ‘Hogwarts’ letter. I knew the longer I delayed the more terrified I would become so I booked straight away. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, a pap smear test is a cervical screening recommended for women 25 and over (in the UK). The screening involves taking a sample of cells from your cervix to see if any of them are abnormal. Abnormal cells are not cancer but they could develop into cancer if left untreated so, as you can imagine, cervical screenings are incredibly important. However, a lot of women avoid booking their screening, for what I can only assume is due to nerves, so I wanted to share my experience and encourage other women to bite the bullet.
I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous in the run up to my screening. However, I spoke to a myriad of women about their experiences and I decided to opt for the power of positive thinking. All week I was imagining running to my appointment with open arms, having a wonderful time with the nurse and then bouncing home spreading the revolutionary news that your smear test is actually a walk in the park. Unfortunately, my experience was a bit different to what I had expected.
This is what actually happened.
I walked into the doctor’s surgery, quietly nervous, but still happy because I was listening to the Hairspray soundtrack, and who the hell could be sad listening to the Hairspray soundtrack? I was trying to curb my nerves into positive energy and, I must say, I was doing a bloody brilliant job! Then the nurse came to find me in the waiting room and showed me to her room. She sat me down, asked a few questions and explained the procedure. She told me that she was going to insert an instrument called a speculum, which kind of looks like a big plastic duck bill, and then insert a tiny tiny brush which will collect some cells for the sample. She was one of the nicest nurses I have ever met and listened to my list of doubts. She confirmed that the experience is different for everyone but that she would try to be extra gentle. The nurse was definitely the best part of my experience because she genuinely listened to my fears and responded with respect and kindness.
Next is the awkward bit where I drop my underwear and lay down on the bed. I was told to sit in a pretty unflattering position with my knees apart and then she carried out the procedure. The great news is that the screening was incredibly fast, at a guess I would say it lasted a minute. The bad news, however, is that my fears were confirmed and I personally found the procedure pretty uncomfortable. However, the nurse was fantastic and supported me the whole time.
And then it was over.
I was told that my results would be sent to me within two weeks and I went on with the rest of my day.
I know many other bloggers like Zoella have described their smear tests and found them incredibly easy and I really wanted to reinforce this idea. Honestly, I’m quite sad that I found it a bit painful but my experience was still incredibly positive. One minute of minor pain could save your life and I really hope all women take the opportunity to have a cervical screening. As someone with a low risk of finding abnormal cells, I could have easily ignored the letters but I didn’t because every woman could get cervical cancer so it is absolutely worth it. If you’re reading this and delaying your appointment because you’re nervous, please please ignore your fears and book an appointment. You’re doing something incredible for yourself so be proud and take the opportunity.
If we talk about it enough, more women will book cervical screenings and then maybe, one day, the HPV virus will be eradicated.
Best of luck!