My Smear Test & Colposcopy Experience

In the UK, just before you turn 25, you get the letter. And I'm not talking about the Hogwarts letter that has clearly been lost for 14 years. No, I'm talking about the letter that tells you you're now eligible for a cervical screening. For a lot of people, this letter can be dreaded. I mean, the idea of having some stranger poke around in an area of your body that you don't generally whip out in public very often is absolutely terrifying, especially if you have no idea what to expect. Therefore, the fact that 1 in 3 women miss their smear tests out of embarrassment is, while extremely sad, not very surprising.

Really, when I think about it, the way I found out about smear tests was really through my mum, who has always been open and honest about all adulthood topics with me. I feel very lucky to have a woman in my life who I have been able to take such information from, but I realise that there are so many people out there who don't have this same privilege. Therefore, I wanted to write this post to share with you my smear test experience, as well as my following colposcopy, as a way to show you that in reality you have nothing to worry about. I really hope that this post encourages you to book your screening today if you haven't already, or if you're scared or putting it off.

I also want to say that I was absolutely inspired by my pal Immy who wrote about this on her blog last year and I'd definitely recommend giving her post a read as well.

When I got my letter I booked my consultation with my local nurse immediately, and my appointment was made around 3 weeks after I rang up. I personally felt quite chill about the whole thing until the time that the appointment came around and I had a minor freak out in the car. However I calmed myself, told myself how important it was and went on in.

My nurse knew it was my first smear test and I can honestly say she was wonderful. She made sure to talk me through every step of the screening so there were absolutely no surprises and there wasn't even a moment when I felt embarrassed. Nurses have seen everything. She also said that a smear test should never be painful, but it may be slightly uncomfortable.

Obviously I'm not a medical professional, so giving you a detailed run down of how it goes wouldn't really be the best idea, but I recommend reading the NHS website's section on what happens at your appointment.

For me, I didn't feel any pain whatsoever. I felt the moment that she put the speculum (it looks a bit like a duck bill) inside me and within literally 10 seconds she was done. I didn't even feel the part where she took the cell sample! All in all, 100% worth the 10 minutes it took out of my day, especially knowing that doing this can save my life.

My nurse also told me that at the time the lab where they test the samples was running behind, so it would take longer than normal to receive the results. It took 10 weeks for me to hear anything back and that was when I received another letter.

The letter read that I had abnormal cells. Of course, in the moment I panicked without reading the whole letter and I immediately jumped to the worst conclusion. I was told that I had to go to the hospital for something called a 'colposcopy' which is kind of like an extended smear test.

Despite my panic, I soon discovered that it's actually extremely normal to find abnormal cells, especially during your first screening. In fact, the doctor also told me that such cells usually go away on their own, but they check them as early as possible to avoid any future risk of developing into cancer. While I wasn't exactly looking forward to having a colposcopy done, I felt that it was 100% more important to know for sure that I was looking after my health than the fact that I was a bit scared of it all.

The colposcopy was a bit like a more intense version of a smear test. There were four people in the room with me this time, and while it didn't hurt for me personally, it was definitely more uncomfortable than the smear. I didn't really feel embarrassed, although it was a little odd to have so many people looking around there, but they kept making conversation so I didn't think about it too much.

The doctor told me afterwards that he didn't feel there was anything to worry about, but I would have to go for another smear test a year later just to check that nothing had changed. If they had felt like something more needed to be done, they would have done a biopsy.

Needless to say, despite my anxiety I am so glad I went for my cervical screening. It's one of those things that seems extremely daunting because in your head you can imagine it to be a lot worse than it really is. I can obviously only speak for myself and I know there are people who find it difficult to have their smear test done for medical reasons, but if you are able to have yours then please get it done. It's 10 minutes that could essentially save your life.

If you have a cervix and you want some more information, then you can find details at the sources below. x