Smear Testing & Cervical Cancer
I was called for my first smear test in early 2013, I was 25 years old and I had just (literally) started my first role in marketing. I always knew it (the smear) was coming and to be honest, I am quite laid back about these things. I know they aren’t particularly pleasant but they need doing so delaying is pointless. You just have to grit your teeth, allow yourself to blush a little and the whole thing is done within 5 minutes. Easy and more importantly, painless!
It was a Saturday morning about a week or so later that I got an envelope through the door. Opening it up and reading the letter, my heart sank. The letter informed me basically that some irregular/abnormal cells had shown up in my smear and I was required to go for further examination -known as a colposcopy- so my cervix could be examined further and in more detail. If the consultuant decides you need treatment -which I did- he/she carries out a small biopsy to remove the cells in question.
The risk of developing cervical cancer is incredibly slim but it needs mentioning because you need to be prepared that it could well happen down the line and the risks are very real. But this is why it is a requirement for women from ages 24-25 onwards to have an annual smear test. Cervical cancer -like most cancers- develops and takes hold when it goes undetected for a long time which is why it’s so important to act when those reminder letters come through from your doctor.
I won’t lie though, when I got that first letter through highlighting my abnormal results it’s safe to say I cried for the rest of the day and pretty much every day until my appointment. It must have been horrible for Ian to see me so scared and be powerless to do anything about it. But when you lack all the information and have no-one you know who has been through the same thing to reassure you, it is very scary. But that’s okay.
Going for a Colposcopy
However, be rest assured that you are not alone. Abnormal smears are common (about one in twenty women will have an abnormality in their results) and a quick Google on the internet will reveal hundreds of forums and posts from women either going through or having experienced the exact same thing. Also, when I rocked up to the hospital in a teary snotty mess I was instantly comforted by the staff. The (male) consultant talked me through the whole procedure and the nurses were fantastic in making me feel comfortable and at ease.
In total, I was in the room for probably no more than 30 minutes and I was awake the whole time -the consultant just put some local anaesthetic in my cervix to numb the area so he could do a small biopsy. You have the opportunity to watch the procedure on a screen but I personally declined the offer; I would rather just lose myself in my own thoughts for a few minutes, but each to their own of course.
I was required to go back to the hospital six months later for a follow up examination, and again (unfortunately) those results still picked up some more abnormal cells so once again I was back at the hospital, in the chair, legs a part having another smear. This time however, it was to be absolutely sure that the HPV (human papillomavirus) strain that could potentially lead to cervical cancer wasn’t there.
Fortunately, those results came back clear and I have been all good for a year now. However, it’s time to go back for another routine check-up. If my cells are abnormal again then it’s just one of those things I have to learn to accept. I would rather have to go through a few additional minutes of discomfort every six months – year, than be diagnosed with cervical cancer too late.
Sweeties, you know me, I tell it like it is but in doing so I hope that I haven’t scared you. Smear tests are routine and so, so important to do. Go and get yourselves checked!
If you have any questions about going for a smear test, or my experience of going for a colposcopy, please do reach out to me on my social media, or in the comments below.
Until next time x