August 11, 2015
The truth about smear tests
The first time I heard about smear tests I must’ve been about 10 or 11 watching Corrie with my Mum. Smear test results had been mixed up at the doctors and it was in fact Alma, not Audrey, who had cancer (yes, I remember it that vividly) and being the inquisitive youngster I am I asked what it was all about. Mum explained it was a cancer detection test where a lollipop stick-like swab was inserted inside you but you only got invited to have it when you were 25. I savoured the fact that 25 was years away and that was that.
Until I turned 25 and got the letter. ‘It’s a nice birthday present isn’t it?’ said the nurse who was to test me. To tell you the truth I’ve had better, but as my friends and colleagues one by one make that age, smear tests are talked about more and more often and scarily it’s not a comparison of notes but I sharing and fear about doubts over whether they should go or not. The simple answer here is go. Every time you’re invited to have a smear test, go. Cancer Research say that “scientists and experts estimate that cervical screening saves around 5,000 lives each year in the UK” so there’s no good reason not to go along.
When my time came I did go but I wasn’t particularly calm. It’s a bit like when you get your first Brazilian wax with the nerves and the apprehension of allowing a stranger to see such an intimate part of you, but you know what? It’s over much quicker, doesn’t hurt at all and by doing it you’re saving your life. What helps is that the nurses who do them are always lovely; after all they’re women too and we’ve all had a first time.
She instructs you what to do, warns it might be a cold or feel a bit funny, then it’s over. In a matter of seconds you’ve had one of the most important, life-saving tests of your life. (If you’re feeling particularly nervous and unsure, I’d suggest wearing a dress or a long top, as you may feel less exposed.) I didn’t feel a thing and was a bit surprised when she said it was all over. You know how you thought getting your period was the end of the world and it wasn’t? Having your smear test isn’t either.
Thankfully they’re becoming more frequently talked about, but that only makes us half way there; to really save lives you need to have one.