Smear Tests: What to expect at your appointment

25th March 2019

It's a fact, cervical cancer can be prevented in the majority of cases. (Public Health England)

It is a worrying statistic that 1.28 million women did not respond to their invitation for a smear test.  Women have given different reasons why they did not attend, ranging from embarrassment, to being too busy or worried about it being painful. Cervical screening in the UK saves 5000 lives every year and it has proven to be a very successful prevention program.

What to expect from your appointment:

The appointment will take around 10 mins however, if you are concerned and feel you need a little more time, you can ask for a double appointment. You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on your back; the nurse will cover your lap with a sheet or a towel. Please do not be concerned about your pubic hair, your GP/gynecologist or nurse is not bothered about your appearance, they only care about you looking after yourself. Once you are settled, a speculum, which is a small medical device that opens the walls of your vagina, is gently inserted so your doctor or nurse can check the cervix. A soft plastic brush is then used to take a sample of the cells from the wall of your cervix. It may feel a little strange but it’s not painful. These cells are then put in a pot and sent away for testing.

Tips to make your smear test more comfortable

  1. If you’d prefer to keep some form of clothing on, we would suggest wearing a skirt which will allow you to be examined with extra covering.
  2. If the speculum feels uncomfortable, ask for a smaller size. Like us, speculums come in different sizes.
  3. If you are still worried, talk to your nurse or doctor. They can use some lubrication which will help to make it more comfortable. As long as the lubricant is not on the tip of the speculum, it will not contaminate the cells the nurse/doctor are collecting.
  4. If you suffer from vaginal dryness or pain during sex and are very worried about a smear test, it is important to ask for an assessment from a specialist health care professional (like a women’s health physio or a gynecologist). You may need an assessment to work out how we can help you. Symptoms of vaginal pain, itching and painful intercourse is common, sadly most women put up with the symptoms and don’t ask for help. Do seek advice, these symptoms can be helped!

 

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