Smear tests, a few things you may not have known….

So I read the bit on about smear test this morning, but found it a little light on info, so rather then complain about it I decided to write my own bit. Here goes.

Why do we need smear tests?
Well our bodies keep replacing our cells, it’s part of what it does and some parts of the body do that replacement more then others, our skin replaces it’s selfa lot. The cells which make up our cervix’s (neck/entrance of the womb) get replaced fairly frequently. When this happens there is a chance that they won’t copy themselves properly due to a few things and if that is left unchecked it can be an issue.

What few things?
Being on hormonal contraception is a factor and so is being sexually active, but even women who aren’t in a sexual relationship or haven’t been for a while should get a smear test, yes even nuns need them.

So to be able to get a sample of cells from our cervix, the person doing your smear test as to be able to see it and what is were speculum come in. Yes that weird contraption which looks like a duck beak.

Did you know they come in a range of sizes?
They do, there are at least 3 sizes and there are ones which have different curve on them as well.
Too many women put up with pain when having a smear test when at the most it should be no more then uncomfortable. Also there are now plastic speculum which are more comfortable then the unyeilding metal ones.

When you are having your next smear test done ladies, talk to the Dr or practice nurse about the speculum, let’s face it, if you are going to be on intimate terms with one, it’s best that it’s one which fits and knowing which one is best for you makes it easier. My practice nurse does my smears and it’s marked on my file which one is to be used and if I ever need to go else were or another member of staff as to give me a smear I know what one fits best.

Ok lets talk about lube.
Lube should always be used when a speculum is being inserted, often a coating of lube will be applied out your sight, but some of it will remain inside you after the speculum is removed and well, what goes in will come out. So if you are going for a smear, bring a panty liner to put on afterwards.
Also, there is such a thing as too much lube. Too much lube on a speculum will have it shifting about inside you unable to do it’s job (which is to hold open the walls of your vagina), if you feel the speculum sliding to much say it to the person doing your smear.

We shouldn’t be just laying back and not being involved, not asking questions, esp when it’s something so intimate as a smear test. Health professionals need our consent and as ever informed consent is the best kind. There is also the model of smear taking which involves ladies inserting the speculum ourselves. Slipping it in as comfortable as we can and then calling in the health professional to open it up and get to work. Seriously if this may work better for you then talk to your dr or nurse about it.

In other countries having a smear test includes a general exam of the area, that is not always the case here but you can bring up any concerns you have, or bumps you want looked at. Part of the procedure also these days includes a swab for Chlamydia, which makes sense as it’s the most common sti,
easily treatable but some women can have it and have no symptoms so it was added to what happens when you have a smear test done.

Post smear cramping.
Some women get it, some do not, I know someone who does and so makes her appointments for late afternoon so she can go home to a hot water bottle, having a post smear plan to unwind and treat yourself after can make it all go easier.

The fear of an abnormal smear.
There is a history in my family re issues with abnormal smears, but I had never had one until the last year. I had my first smear near 20 years go, have always kept up having them and then got the dreaded letter. I have to admit I did get a bit freaked but when I rang my practice nurse she explained that they detection methods have gotten better so that looking at my results they were only slightly abnormal and with that she just booked me a repeat smear in 6 months. The next result was normal.

If you get an abnormal result, there’s no reason to panic, even if you get a second one it’s not a big deal and even if you do need treatment there is a series of steps which get taken long before the word cancer ever has to be uttered. That is the thing about smear tests, they are an awesome early warning system, which is why they are so important.

Unfortunately it’s been one of those things which for so long we didn’t talk about, we didn’t share the tips and tricks which can make it easier.

If you want more information or to sign up to the Cervical Check program which offers free smear tests to women over the age of 25 (I think 25 is too late tbh, if you are sexually active you should have it done) or to find how to find a health professional if your own Dr doesn’t do them then the website is

3 thoughts on “Smear tests, a few things you may not have known….”

  1. It’s quite comforting to hear that a nurse may be qualified to do the procedure. I haven’t had a smear done since I was last pregnant ten years ago. I really like my GP, even though I’ve only been attending his practice for seven months.

    I had a smear done annually in the US, because it’s normal protocol for a female to attend as an assistant if the person doing the test is male. As a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, this is essential to my peace of mind. Also, no doctor (even those listed on the registry) has offered me a smear, and I felt awkward about asking for it.

    But I do believe that I’ll at least speak to my GP about it when I see him next week. I do believe he would be sympathetic of my need to have a woman in attendance for the procedure (and the female nurse in his practice is absolutely brilliant).

    1. Practice nurses van be qualified to do them and drs should have to option to have a female health professional present. If that’s not possible you will be able to find a practice which will accomidate via the cervical check websites.

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