Hello and welcome back to ‘Vibe.’ Wow, it has been a while since our last blog post but we promise we are back and better than ever! I thought it was about time we spoke about my cervical screening experience, better known as a smear test; we all know by now ‘Vibe’ was created as a result of a conversation I had during my smear test so here it is, my smear test story time….
But first, it is probably best to explain what a smear test is- a smear test checks the health of your cervix (return to our The Female Anatomy post if you are unsure on the technical terms) the test is used to help prevent cervical cancer. During the appointment a sample of cells will be taken from your cervix and checked for the HPV virus (some types of the virus are high risk and can cause cervical cancer, hence why a smear test is so important). It is worth mentioning, I am only 21 and most people wouldn’t have their first smear test until they are 25 (more on why I had one later) anyone aged 25-64 should be invited to go to an appointment.
Okay, so now you know why smear tests are so important, I’ll tell you my experience. As I say I am only 21 however, I was experiencing some of the symptoms of cervical cancer,
Cervical cancer symptoms
· Abnormal bleeding- during or after sex, between periods and after you have been through the menopause
· Pain and discomfort during sex
· Unusual vaginal discharge (there will be a whole blog post on this topic soon!)
· Pain in your lower back and pelvis
· Blood in your pee
I didn’t know what to do as a 21-year-old who knew very little about smear tests and thought you could only have one age 25 plus… I was wrong! After admitting to myself the vaginal bleeding I was experiencing was abnormal, I contacted my GP who referred me to gynaecologist Dr Poonam Pradhan, aka Vibe’s gynaecological guru. This was during lockdown 1 so our initial consultation was on zoom- she reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy and the symptoms I was experiencing were valid. In a way this helped put my mind at ease, but equally when she said the dreaded words ‘you need a smear test’ I won’t lie I was pretty anxious. Anyway, I had to pull myself together, I booked the appointment and within two weeks there I was legs in stirrups, naked from the waist down. I am being very dramatic and that is not entirely true. Before the whole getting naked in front of a stranger thing, your medical professional will explain the process of the examination and put you at ease, giving you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. You will then get changed behind a screen from the waist down and place a towel over your lap. Whilst I was changing Dr Pradhan had asked a chaperone to sit in on the examination behind the screen for patient protection, again this helped me relax. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t think Dr Pradhan was going to do anything weird but even still it helped.
I was then asked to relax my legs either side of me- it was a bit strange having someone staring at your naked vagina, but it equally wasn’t embarrassing (remember doctors and nurses see naked bodies every day and to them your vagina is like an arm or a leg to us.)
I took a deep breath to relax myself and my muscles whilst Dr Pradhan gently inserted a speculum (a tube-shaped tool) into my vagina, she then opened the speculum to be able to see my cervix. Now I won’t lie, this part felt a little bit uncomfortable for a second, but it was like a scratch. Dr Pradhan then reached for a small swab brush and took a swab of the cells of my cervix, the finally removed the speculum and that was it, genuinely that easy!
I don’t know why I thought it was going to be really dramatic and traumatising when in reality it was like going for an eye test- I know ,I know you don’t strip down during an eye test, or maybe you do each to their own! But even still smear tests are not a big deal to have done however, they are a big deal in preventing cervical cancer!
After my exam I waited about two weeks to receive a letter in the post saying my result was clear, it was a huge relief and suddenly the weight I was carrying on my shoulders was lifted. Had I not gone for my smear test I would probably still be worrying and not dealing with the issue. Something to take away from my experience is, if you are experiencing any symptoms of cervical cancer no matter what your age (read in depth cervical cancer symptoms below) speak to your GP ASAP. I am sure it will be nothing to worry about but either way you need to investigate any abnormalities, there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
That is all for this post about my smear test experience, if you have any questions about this post or any topics you would like covered in future posts head over to Vibes Instagram page and DM any questions you have.
see you later,
The Vibe team x
Disclaimer, this is a blog for educational purposes only and is not a replacement for consulting a doctor.