At the start of this week, I attended my cervical screening, or smear test. I’ve been trying to remember how many smear tests I’ve had before, and it must be around five or six now. I’m not sure, but I have been every time I’ve been sent the reminder letter, and so far, all of my tests have come back negative. Therefore, I assume that I’m a fairly standard case! So, I thought I’d share my experience of the cervical screening just in case you’re reading this having never been before or worse, putting off an appointment that you really ought to make.
I knew that it was time to have my cervical screening because I received a letter in the post, advising me to make an appointment with my local doctor’s surgery. The letter also contained a leaflet with information about the screening.
Other than making the appointment, there was no other preparation needed. I didn’t even bother shaving my legs, and I doubt the nurse noticed, either!
At my appointment, the nurse was excellent. She asked me what I knew about cervical screening and the human papilloma virus (HPV). I have to say, I’ve never had this level of information when I’ve been for my smear test before. There are loads of different types of HPV; two of which can cause cervical cancer. These are the strains that your smear test are checked for.
For the actual test, you’ll be asked to remove the clothing from the lower half of your body, and lie down. The nurse will ask you to touch your knees to your bottom and let your knees flop open. She’ll then insert a speculum into your vagina, which allows her to reach your cervix, which she’ll use a small brush to gently collect some cells. Then you’re all done!
The whole procedure is a little uncomfortable, but takes no more than five minutes.
Once the test is done, your sample is sent off to be tested. Whether your sample is tested for HPV first, or examined for abnormal cells first, varies from area to area. The nurse who performed my screening explained that in Norfolk, they test for HPV first, then search for abnormal cells if HPV is present.
Within two weeks, you should receive a letter telling you what happens next.
If your test is negative for HPV, then you’ll continue to be screened every three years.
If HPV is found in your sample but there are no abnormal cells, you’ll be screened annually, until you have three negative tests in a row.
If abnormal cells are present, you’ll be referred for further treatment.
While this last outcome might seem a bit of a scary prospect, it’s important to remember that treatment for cervical cancer is often completely curable if caught in its early stages, which is why it’s so important to make the call and get yourself booked in for your cervical screening.