Smear tests! We know they are essential, but why aren’t we getting them?
Embarrassment, shame over the appearance of our bodies, anxiety over the procedure. With cervical cancer screening rates at a record low, we wanted to share our top tips to make the whole process more comfortable for you.
Talk about it, good honest communication is important.
Talk about your concerns with your GP or practice nurse. If you don’t feel able to talk about it, write it down and hand it to your practice nurse or GP before the procedure. You can even book an appointment beforehand to talk about your concerns and get them to explain the whole process to you. You can also request a female nurse. If you have a learning disability or are transgender talk to your GP and ask them to refer you to an appropriate sample taker that will be able to understand your needs and carry out the test.
Wear comfy clothes.
Wear clothes that are easy to take off and comfortable. You don’t want to be there stuck in your tights desperately trying to take them off as quickly as possible. If you are wondering where to put your trousers and knickers if there is nowhere suitable to place them. A good tip is to fold them up and put them under the pillow, so you know exactly where they are. And it’s OK to keep your socks on!
Don’t feel obliged to wax, shave or remove any body hair. They are your health care provider, not your lover! They genuinely don’t care what you do with your pubic hair or what your vulva looks like, and they aren’t going to judge you for it.
Find a comfortable position for your body.
You don’t have to lie on your back if that’s an uncomfortable position or if it causes extreme anxiety for you. Ask your GP/Practice nurse to raise the back of the bed so that you are almost upright. Some people report that this position helps them feel more in control over what’s happening to their body during a smear test. You could also have a smear test lying on your side by pulling up your knees towards your chest.
Keep your mouth open.
Yes, we aren’t joking!! Keeping your jaw relaxed also keeps your pelvic floor muscles relaxed thanks to a connection of nerves down your spinal cord.
Making the insertion of a speculum far more relaxed and more comfortable.
For the majority of women, smear tests are a quick, painless procedure, but if you do need pain relief, don’t be embarrassed to ask for it. Paracetamol can be taken beforehand, or your doctor can prescribe you painkillers and an oestrogen cream if vaginal dryness is an issue. A smaller speculum can be used.
Don’t be afraid to speak up.
If it’s too painful or you are feeling extremely anxious or upset, speak up and tell your nurse. It’s 100% OK to take the procedure at your own pace. You can even book a double appointment if you feel that you would like to take things slower.
After your appointment, go out and do something you enjoy. You can go out for coffee with a friend to take your mind off the procedure and any anxiety over the results. Remember, even if an abnormality is detected, it does not mean you have cervical cancer, so try not to worry too much about it.
We hope you found the above helpful and we would love to hear what you do to make your smear test a more comfortable experience in the comments below.
For more information regarding cervical cancer and cervical screening please visit the Jo’s cervical Cancer trust website here.