Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Personal Post: Smear Tests

This has been a post I've wanted to write for a very long time, but one that I haven't written until now because I wasn't sure whether it would be something people would want to read about. But it's something that affects ALL women, and I for one am always glad to read anything about people's experiences with these sort of things, so I decided to put it down into words.

All women are invited to attend their smear (pap) test from the age of 25, which I do feel is a real oversight as problems can definitely occur younger than that, but thats the government for you. In Wales the age used to be 20 (now 25) and I was fortunate enough to be screened when I was younger. 
Like a lot of girls, I avoided the smear as I felt it would be embarrassing and invasive, and so I ignored letters for a few years, finally going for the first time when I was 23. If I'd known how simple and NOT scary it was, I'd have gone straight away. With Jade Goody's tragic death, it really highlighted the importance of these tests.

My first test was quick, easy and professional, with the nurse talking me through the procedure, it didn't hurt (just felt a bit uncomfortable) and wasn't as embarrassing as I thought it would be. I wore a skirt and simply rolled it up. My results came back as normal which was a huge relief.

3 years later I went for my follow up, feeling nervous and anxious all over again, and quickly realised the more tense you are the longer it takes and more uncomfortable it is. I reminded myself the nurse had done it thousands of times before and again my result was normal.

Around the same time I'd been referred to my gynaecology department at the hospital for unexplained bleeding, and I had to have several more internal examinations and swabs which were far more uncomfortable than the smear test, as I had doctors, nurses and trainees surrounding the bed and the wrong sized speculum being used! 

All those results came back clear so when I went for my smear in 2014 and got an abnormal result I immediately panicked; I felt sick and imagined the worst. 
6 long months later I went for a follow up which was again abnormal and I was referred for a colposcopy. I don't think there's a single article I didn't read on google about it during that time, and I convinced myself it was going to be horrible news.

My appointment day arrived in February 2015 and again it was painless and professional, with the colposcopist talking me through every stage, she reassured me that I had low grade abnormalities and that no action needed to be taken, other than smears every 12 months until things went back to normal. She answered all my questions and could tell I was panicky and a googler! But I left feeling more relaxed and my biopsy didn't identify any high grade HPV.

Fast forward to this February and again I went to the surgery feeling nervous and apprehensive. The nurse told me she herself had had abnormal results on and off for 12 years and that as long as you keep up to date with your smears, and keep an eye out for any changes, most of the time the chances of it developing into cancer are very low.
 My results came back as normal this week, and I can't put into words how relieved I am! 
I have to still go yearly until I've had 3 normal results, but I'm happy with that. 
It makes me feel so fortunate that we live in a country where we're well looked after and these tests are available to us.

There's nothing to fear from having a smear test, not having one is far more serious. 
As the nurse said, cervical cancer tends to develop in women who never go rather than those who do. For 5 minutes of discomfort, it's definitely worth it.


  1. It is definitely worth it! I had my first test and I should've guessed from the size of the results pack that it wasn't straight forward news lol - it was pretty thick. I ended up having CIN3 cells removed. It literally is amazing to think we can stop the changes BEFORE they get to the 'C' stage... that's why it’s so important 'eh! I didn’t actually get put onto yearly checks and I’ve just had my 3yr recall and all clear - phew!

    1. sorry to hear you went through that Cheryl, but it's great that they stopped it when they did and you've had the all clear! These tests are so important!

      Lucy x

  2. Smear tests are so important! I had my first one at the age of 15 then again when I was 21. I had strange bleeding but they both came back fine but I'm on HRT because I have strange symptoms. It's great that you have done this post because it will get girls to see it isn't that bad, it feels odd and it's a little embarrassing but over so fast!

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    1. Thanks Stacey! I wrote it because when I was stressing I kept looking online for other people's experiences, and reading about how its not necessarily a bad thing helped me a lot.

      Lucy x


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