Are you worried about your next smear test?
It would be a little strange if you weren’t at least a tad uneasy about getting your rocks off and laying with your legs splayed in front of a total stranger.
But getting a smear test really isn’t that bad, I swear on my cat’s lives.
I had a really fun week recently where I had a smear test and a dental filling within days of each other.The filling was, hands on heart, 100% more traumatic and painful than the smear test.
Although granted, I wasn’t naked from the waist down for that procedure.
Why is a smear test important?
As women we have pesky periods, the trauma of childbirth, get paid way less than men and are regularly, and infuriatingly, mansplained to.
On the plus side, however, we (a) get to wear makeup and (b) there’s a simple test for the cancer were most likely to get if we’re under 35.
That’s right, unlike so many of the insidious cancers out there that are caught when it’s too late, this one can be stopped in its creepy little cancery tracks nice and early.
But only if you get a smear test.
I just read that a third of young women aren’t attending smear tests down to embarrassment and that in Glasgow, where I live, we’re the worst.
One in two girls in Glasgow is throwing their invitation for a smear test in the bin and isn’t getting checked.
This troubles me deeply but I also totally get it.
I recently put off a smear test for a few months myself, despite having been for a couple in the past.
I finally went after a prod from my doctor but not before working myself up into a frenzy and dreading it for days.
Dear readers, it was over within minutes, minutes! I actually said to the nurse, “is that it?”
I grew up in the Jade Goody era, where we saw, right before our eyes, a big bubbly TV personality with 2 young kids, die very quickly aged just 27 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, when it was too late.
There are waaaaaay more embarrassing things that can happen out there than a smear test and they won’t potentially save your life.
If you keep your cool and do a bit of sassy breathing and visualisation ( I’ll explain more below) then it’s over in a flash.
Boom, you’re done for three years.
Then dance on out of that doctor’s surgery feeling like Sasha Fierce.
So, what’s the problem with a smear test?
Well, that’s kind of obvious.
The thought of getting half naked and a speculum popped up your cha cha isn’t particularly nice and it’s all quite embarrassing really, isn’t it?
Let’s break it down.
You’re possibly British and so naturally a bit uptight, maybe you’re also young and you haven’t had many invasive medical procedures or bikini waxes.
Unless you’re free and easy and grew up in a naked household, it’s likely that you’re shy about your body.
That’s totally fine.
Do you know who’s not shy about bodies? The nurses who perform heaps of smear tests every day. They won’t give a rats if you’re waxed within an inch of a life down there, or whether you’re rocking a retro 70’s bush.
Hairy legs, streaky fake tan? They won’t give a hoot.
The nurse has a job to do and it’s collecting a few cells from your cervix in the quickest and calmest way possible.
During my first ever smear test I was genuinely a bit annoyed that the nurse hadn’t noticed the layer of St Tropez I had loving applied to my legs the night before.
If this is your first smear test then you’re grappling with the dreaded, ‘fear of the unknown.’
So here’s what’s happened each of the three times I’ve had a smear test.
First, I go into the nurse’s room feeling a bit nervous and the nurse is nice and friendly and asks me to go behind a curtain, where I strip from the waist down, lie down on the bed and cover myself with a big bit of tissue paper. The glamour.
When I’m ready she comes in places herself at the foot of the bed and asks me to sit with the soles of my feet touching, it’s sort of like a yoga position.
My legs might get a bit shaky at this point but I pop my feet together as she asks, take deep breaths and try to relax.
Making your smear test easier with breathing and visualisation
Relax at this point, am I mad? Well, a little bit but I’m also a big fan of deep breathing and visualisation – the power of the mind is real, babes.
Think about it, if you’re nice and relaxed in mind and body (and cervix) then the whole process will go a lot easier than if you’re all tense and stressy.
I lie back and close my eye and breathe from my belly using nice and long breathes in through the nose and out again. As I breathe slowly and deeply I imagine I’m on a sandy beach with the sun beating down on me, I can hear the waves lap on the shore.
If I start to panic or lose focus then with each in breath I tell myself ‘I am’ and with the out breath, I say, ‘calm,’ only in my head though, as I don’t want the nurse thinking I’m batshit.
This works for the dentist, minor operations and blood tests too by the way.
As I’m slurping a daiquiri on a Jamaican beach in my mind, the nurse is doing her thing at the bottom of the bed and explains what’s happening as she goes.
First, she inserts the speculum, this feels like a hint of pressure but, for me anyway, is not remotely painful. Then she inserts a little brush (think a mascara wand) to collect the cells.
I didn’t feel a thing when she did this recently but the two times previous I felt a slight brushing sensation, which wasn’t painful just unfamiliar.
The nurse pops the cells in a pot and you get changed and carry on with your day feeling a bit proud of yourself.
It takes minutes. Hardly any minutes.
Next, you’ll receive the results within a few weeks, either through the post or by calling your surgery.
If the cells are all good then sit back and wait until you’re summoned again in three to five years.
If you have ‘abnormal cells,’ then there’s usually nothing to worry about but they may want to keep an eye on you and so you’ll be invited for another appointment or for smear tests more frequently, which is fine because you got this.
Book your smear darlings! xxx