**BEWARE THIS POST MAY CONTAIN TMI (too much information!)**
This week, 15th – 21st June 2015, is Cervical Screening Awareness Week (CSAW), so I am taking the opportunity to use this post to help promote cervical screening, aka the dreaded smear, by giving you some useful information (hopefully), courtesy of Jo’s Trusts helpful information booklets.
I mentioned in last week’s post about the Jade Goody effect, in that there was a dramatic increase of uptake in cervical screening appointments immediately after she was diagnosed, but that has now diminished back down to pre-Jade Goody levels.
Around 22% of women still do not attend their smear appointment, that is a huge percentage, especially with something so serious.
I have had smear tests, or examinations in that area since I was 19, due to abnormal bleeding and painful sex, so this is something I am pretty used to now.
So what is involved in cervical screening, aka smear tests…
First of all, a smear is only used to detect early abnormal cells in cervix area, and does not test for cervical cancer. If abnormal cells are detected, you will be called back for further tests, usually a colposcopy (discussed later).
Your smear test will only take a couple of minutes, and will usually be done by the practice nurse at your local GP.
Undressing from the waist down is usually best practice, behind a curtain, to give you some privacy, and then you will be asked to lie down on the examination bed.
They will place some tissue or a blanket over your private area and ask you to relax, which is quite hard when you know what’s coming, but the more you relax the less uncomfortable you will be. So take some deep breaths and think of a nice beach somewhere!
Once you are in the correct position (feet together, legs apart) they will then proceed to insert what is called a speculum. Quite scary looking things, but they are just used to open the cervix to enable the nurse to obtain a swab/sample of cells to be tested. Speculum’s are usually plastic and do come in different sizes. I always ask for the smallest one, due to the problems I have had in that area.
Then that’s it all done!! Told you it only took a few minutes.
Does it hurt?
During your test, if you are at all uncomfortable or in pain you have the right to stop the procedure.
I can say this honestly, as my area down there is super sensitive and extremely sore, that it doesn’t hurt, it is just uncomfortable, but come on girls we are tough, we can stand a bit of discomfort for a few minutes for a test that could potentially save our life!
Cervical Screening saves around 5,000 lives each year, which is staggering, but it could be a lot higher.
Do you need a smear test?
In England, smear tests are carried out on people aged between 25 and 64 and is done every 3 years up until the age of 50 when it is then done every 5 years.
Scotland is slightly different in that they start testing at 20 until the age of 60.
What happens after?
Your sample will be sent away to the lab for testing. Currently around 7 in 100 women tested come back with an abnormal cell result.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, so don’t panic. It just means that these abnormalities need further investigation and left untreated may turn into to cervical cancer.
If your result does come back as abnormal, you will be invited for a colposcopy which sounds scary but it is just a closer look at your cervix by using a microscope. The microscope stays outside your cervix, and you are examined in more or less the same way as your smear test was done, with a speculum.
If you require further treatment once the colposcopy has taken place, the doctor will discuss this with you.
For further information about Cervical Screening, results and treatments, then please check out Jo’s Trust’s website as they have a whole host of useful information and leaflets for you to read.
*All facts and information have been adapted from these leaflets to provide a, hopefully, useful and interesting read*
CSAW – How to get involved.
The main way to get involved this week with Cervical Cancer Awareness Week is to book in for your smear test if you are due one or haven’t been for one in the last 3 years.
Remember this test takes only 5 minutes and saves around 5,000 lives each year.
If you know someone, family or friends, who have been putting off their smear test, show them this post, or send them to Jo’s Trust’s website, to show them the importance of going and that it isn’t as scary as they may think!
And spread the word on social media using the hastags #CSAW and #ScreeningSavesLives
Why not share your experiences in the comments below of having a smear test, good and bad, we like the big picture here, in the chance of encouraging people to go for their smear and saving someone’ life.