Do you know what is really unpleasant? Going into a changing room after someone who has smelly feet. Getting soaked through and having to sit in cold and wet clothes. Stepping in dog muck. These are all seriously unpleasant. Smear tests have a bad reputation for being unpleasant too. I’m here to tell you that not only are they actually not too bad, they are also often life-saving tests.
Having a smear test on the NHS is free if you are aged between 25 and 64 years old. The aim of the tests is to pick up on any abnormal cells to detect the early signs of cervical cancer. Recent statistics show that one in four women are not attending their smear test. The uptake has fallen so low that the government are launching a new Cervical Smear Test information campaign to help women understand the importance and to show that smear tests aren’t the evil tests people think they are.
I’m not here to nag but to say “Please go get it done”. This might be my Tara Talks blog post but our Dream Bear editor, Nicki Cawood probably says it best…
Smear Tests – Not Worth Fussing Over
“My first smear test, quite a few years ago new, involved a metal contraption (the duck billed speculum) and a slightly nervous me. There were two members of staff there. There was the usual scramble to undress from the waist down (I left my socks on, it was nippy) and two female staff reappeared round the curtain, said contraption was carefully and thoughtfully warmed, applied and then one of the women doing the test said “Is it supposed to look like that?”.
Excuuuse me? I was furious! “Well I’ve never had any complaints” I retorted. It turns out that I had misheard the doctor when she told me the second member of staff was a student (probably too busy trying to careful fold my knickers and what not up). She simply wanted to make sure that she was doing everything right and here was me assuring her that my Lady Garden and all that it protects were absolutely top-range, “thank you very much”. It ended up being a big giggle, the test was done and a few weeks later I had blog-worthy medical appointment fodder and a letter telling me that my tests were fine and that that they would see me in three years for my next one.
What a relief!
Fast forward a few years and the test was simplified. No more metal contraption this time, no student for me to mortify this time and it was all over before I knew it. Much like some people’s first dates I was told, when telling friends and colleagues how easy it all was. I spent more time dressing and undressing behind the curtain than I did having the actual test. This time my (thankfully) all clear letter came in under two weeks.
Every single smear that I have had since has been quick, simple and over incredibly fast. I too have been concerned about falling uptake rates for smear tests so wrote this somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog post on smear tests a few years ago to help demystify the test and hopefully make people giggle and relax about the whole thing. If you are concerned about your smear test, talk to staff first. You can take a friend if you feel that you would like someone there even. Whatever makes you feel happy about going.
At the end of the day, none of our downstairs departments are extra special. If you work in the gynae field it becomes a case of “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” so please, just take the time out to have the very quick smear test done”.
That pretty much sums it up as far as I’m concerned too. Smear tests are quick and simple appointments, free and the benefits far outweigh the risks of not going. There’s just me here for my daughter so I can’t afford to take the risk not to go and have the test. It’s a few minutes every three years, quicker than the dentist and free. If you’ve been putting your cervical smear test off, please go and get it booked.