We all know that getting our smear test, PAP test, or cervical screening is not a fun social event but an important and potentially life-protecting one. Put simply, a smear test is when a sample of cells are collected from the cervix and are then checked for abnormalities that may be indicative of cervical cancer in the future. And, although it’s not a social event, we often work ourselves up and treat it as though it is.
Let’s face it, no one likes to receive that white envelope that drops onto our doormat with the formal invitation tucked inside asking us to come and get our vulva's out for a check-up.
When you get the letter, you may be one of two people. The woman who picks up the phone straight away to book herself in and get it out of the way. Or you may be the kind of person who stuffs the letter to the bottom of your bag and thinks, ‘I’ll call them during my lunch break… next week.’
Then it comes to booking the test. You search through your diary, working out when your next period will fall, or hoping to book an early appointment so you can hop from the shower to the nurse’s couch and be nice and fresh. Leaving it until the end of the day means dodging your colleague’s questions as to why you’re leaving the office early.
From reading this study I found that some women don’t attend their check-ups as they are embarrassed by their body shape. We are living in a time when it’s becoming increasingly celebrated to be healthy individuals, regardless of our shape or size. It’s worrying that, as women, we are allowing our self-consciousness to get in the way of taking care of ourselves.
Nurses and doctors look at male and female bits all day long and honestly don’t care what size your legs are, what shape your vulva is, whether your legs are shaved, if you’ve had the latest vajazzle, had your ex-boyfriend’s face tattooed on the top of your leg, or you have odd socks on with holes in.
Here are a few tips to help you feel more at ease for your next smear test. Legs up and enjoy!
If it’s your first time or your 100th, it’s okay to ask any questions you like. The professionals should be more than happy to put your mind at ease, answer your questions, and talk you through the test. They may have a question or two of their own, such as when your last period was.
Invite a Friend
If you would like a bit of extra support then why not ask a friend to come with you. If you don’t fancy asking a friend then a doctor’s surgery will be able to arrange a chaperone for you. Just let them know that you wish to have someone with you during your test, either when you first book it or when you arrive at your appointment. They can stay up at the head end and chat away to you.
Pick the Perfect Outfit
Choose something quick and easy to whip off and on. Perhaps a skirt you can pull up, loose trousers, or leggings. Most doctors ask you to take off your clothes from the waist down, but feel free to rock those bright pink socks. You’ll be given a blanket or sheet of paper to cover your lap so you feel less exposed.
No Need to Wash
The vagina is self-cleaning, so there’s no need to feel that you need to have a spring clean down there before going to your appointment. If you want to take a pack of fragrance-free wipes to give it a quick freshen up, then that’s also fine.
Enjoy the Free Yoga Class
The nurse or doctor will use what looks like a mascara brush to reach into the centre of your cervix to gently wipe around the edge and collect your cells. Whilst they are doing this, they will ask you to place your heels together and allow your knees to fall outwards. Ta-dah, you’re doing the reclining bound angle pose – go girl!
Wrapping It Up
Nobody gets excited about a smear test, but it’s so important to attend as detecting and treating cells that may turn cancerous in the future may save your life. It’s worth lying on your back in the lotus position for two minutes knowing that you’re doing everything you can to take care of your health.
So, no need to have a pedicure, bikini wax, or dress up for the occasion. Just book that test and then treat yourself to your favourite hot drink and a slice of cake afterwards (any excuse).
If you have any other tips on how to make a smear test as simple as possible, let us know in the comments below!
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels