Every year in the UK there are approximately 3200 new cases of cervical cancer. While there has been incredible progress with the development of the HPV vaccine smear tests still form a vital part of the prevention and diganosis of this scary disease. For many of our customers who suffer with pelvic pain the thought of a smear test can be overwhelming and easily avoided so let's have a look at why it is important and some strategies for approaching your smear test.
What is it all about?
First let’s digest some of those scary yet very real facts.
- Cervical Cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35
- 2 women lose their lives to the disease everyday
- 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day
- Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers from developing
- 1 in 4 women don't attend when invited for their smear test
- This drops to 1 in 3 women aged 25-29
Even faced with these facts the number of women attending their smear test is dropping.
Your cervix sits at the top of your vagina and a smear test involves taking a sample of cells from your cervix which are then viewed under a microscope to detect any changes in the cells that might develop into cancer in the future.
Not going for cervical screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer.
Information is power! There is loads of support and answers to all your questions over at the Jo’s Trust Website - if you haven’t visited it take a moment to do so - I promise you will come back enlightened!
As for the reasons you may have for putting off that smear....
Smears can be especially nerve wracking if you suffer from any type of pelvic pain.
Please don’t let this stop you. Firstly make a separate appointment to discuss your concerns with your GP or nurse practitioner which will give you time to formulate a plan without the pressure of time.
Consider using dilators in advance of your smear. This may take a few weeks. Have a look at this quick guide to dilators to understand how they may help. You will need to follow the steps to successfully progress through the dilator sizes. Give yourself time, be kind to your body and be consistent.
Make sure you prepare with YES vaginal moisturiser in advance of your test to alleviate dryness and improve the elasticity of the vaginal tissue. Use YES WB lubricant to aid insertion of the speculum.
Find a comfortable position for speculum insertion. This may require a pillow under your hips. Practice this in advance with you dilators.
Consider taking headphones and play relaxing music. If you use breathing techniques or visualisation techniques to relax you when you use your dilators make sure you repeat these when you are actually having your smear.
Please don’t worry about what your vagina looks like - we are all different and that is normal. Your nurse or GP does this every day and certainly does not care. They will just be happy you are there.
Please don’t worry if you haven’t shaved your legs or jumped straight out of a shower - did I mention your nurse or GP will just be happy you are there.
Many women believe they won’t be at risk because they are not sexually active but cancer can affect anyone so please don’t delay.
Many women don’t know enough about why they should have a smear - arm yourself with knowledge over at Jo’s Trust then educate your friends and family.
I know it can be difficult to get to appointments - but this appointment is a really important one. Hopefully your GP surgery will be flexible with timings - you can always ask for a different nurse or GP if you would rather not see your regular doctor.
Yes, smears can be uncomfortable, we all wonder what the point of the little sheet is / where we should leave our pants / if we really need to talk about the weather but remember it is only 3 minutes of your life!