Smear Stories

Today, in honour of the week that’s in it (European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week) I’m just going to write a wee post on Cervical Checks, or Smear tests as their more commonly know.

I work with young people and it frequently dismays me how badly the secondary school education system lets them down when it comes to practicing good sexual health. Most systems get the basic: ‘Insert Tab A into slot B’ thing going on, but ensuring that they learn enough about various tests and preventative measures, doesn’t seem to be a priority.

Because of my work I learned early the necessity of good testing and I registered with the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA). At that time everyone got free smears once they passed 18, this recommended age has now been increased to 25. When I was 23 I had my first smear. While he was already ‘in there’, doctor suggested I get ‘The Suite’, Smear and the STI testing. I was as nervous as anyone is when you find out your having a piece of metal put in your hoo-ha, but it was fine. It wasn’t just me and the doc, there was a nurse there too which oddly, made it easier.

I’m not going to lie and tell you I couldn’t feel it, but if I had to describe the sensation I’d pick; COLD! Its over in like 30 seconds, there’s no pain, just the oddest sensation that someone left a door open and there’s a breeze up your vaj-j-j AND I had the added comfort of a ‘two-for-the-price-of-one-job’ by getting the STI test. The added bonus of getting a list of disease you don’t have a few week later: Awesome!

I get asked some questions on getting it, (as a patient not a doctor BTW) and here are my answers:

  • Does the smear test for STI’s or STD’s? No, separate tests. Usually done at the same time but make sure and check

    Happy llamas: To distract you from the stirrup bit

    Happy llamas: To distract you from the stirrup bit

  • Is it sore? No. Its not pleasant, buts its once every 3-5 years or so and so worth it.
  • Is it expensive? Its free if you’re over 25, you can check if you’re on the register http://www.cervicalcheck.ie/information-for-women/check-you-are-on-the-register.141.html here
  • Does the doctor ask you personal questions? Yes. But s/he’s a doctor, you ain’t doing nothing freaky they ain’t never heard before. Also its unlikely they know your Ma. In all seriousness though, its a non-judgemental, confidential service, and they’re only asking questions to make sure you’re ok
  • Are you on your own with the doctor? I haven’t been on my own, if you’re nervous, ask in advance if you can be accompanied by a nurse
  • What happens if the test shows abnormality? There’s no rush to A&E, the doctor will ask you to come back and re-test. Ultimately, if there is something wrong, the earlier its found the better.
  • If there are abnormalities do I have cancer? Not necessarily, but again, the earlier these things are found the better.
  • Should I leave my socks on? Believe it or not I did ask this question, the answer is yes, because your feet will get cold.
  • Should I prepare my ‘lady-garden’ in any way before arriving? Look, we’re all thinking it. I did ask my doc if he ‘judged’, even a little, he laughed. Apparently as long as theres not so much hair it blocks the whole thing off, its fine. Personally, its always nice to look your best…
  • Are there stirrups that require your legs to be in the air? Yup. No dodging that bit

So there you go. The things with smears is they look worse than they are (stirrups!), but they are very useful, quick, essentially painless and very reassuring when complete. So go get one, and bring a friend. Make a day of it.

*I HAVE NO MEDICAL TRAINING I’M ALWAYS A PATIENT AND NEVER A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL*

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