You may have seen a couple of weeks ago on Instagram I posted about my Cervical Screening Test.
Well I got my results through yesterday and I’ve decided to share it with you all. The reason for this is because I want people to realise just how important it is. Hopefully by sharing my experience it may get someone else to go. And it may even save a life. Less and less women are going for their routine screenings which mean more women are dying from an easily curable cancer.
This is going to be a 2 part post but you will find out why further down.
So. The Smear, Cervical Screening, PAP test… Whatever you want to call it. It’s a simple process where a sample of cells are taken from the cervix. They are then sent to a lab and tested. Once upon a time they were only looking for abnormal cells, but that is no longer the case.
They now test for HPV (Human Papillomavirus). This is a common virus that most people will get in their lifetime. It can cause warts and verrucas but is also know for increasing the risk of developing certain cancers. One of these being Cervical Cancer.
HPV can lie dormant in the body for up to 20 years. Many people will have no symptoms and quite often the body will clear itself of the virus. There is no medicinal cure for HPV but they can immunise against it. This immunisation is being offered to girls of High School age to help prevent cervical cancer later in life.
The process of screening for HPV changed just 3 years ago. Right after I had my last one. My previous test showed no abnormal cells so HPV was not looked for. They would only look for HPV if there were abnormal cells present. These days they look for HPV straight away, alongside abnormal cells. This way they can tell if you are more at risk of developing cervical cancer and prevent it.
Cervical Screening – The Process
I can’t say a Smear is the best thing in the world. I’m not going to lie. It’s uncomfortable and for some people it can be painful. The more relaxed you are about it the easier it will be. It should only take 5-10 minutes and the nurse doing it will have done hundreds before. Trust me, there’s nothing they haven’t seen before so please don’t be embarrassed.
You will be asked to undress from the waist down and given a towel or sheet to cover yourself with. (Not that there’s any point to that whatsoever.)
Next it’s a case of laying back on the bed, feet together and knees bent apart. A plastic speculum will be inserted using a small amount of lubricant. It is then opened so the nurse can see the cervix and she will sweep a small soft brush around it in order to get a sample of cells.
And that is it!
My smear took slightly longer than 10 minutes but only because I was having such an in depth conversation with my nurse! And she had let me take pictures of the instruments prior to doing it. She even helped move the light around so I could get a good picture. But the actual test took about a minute!
But that is how simple the process is. It’s nothing to be scared of and it will potentially save your life.
The results come back usually between 2-3 weeks depending on where you live. As I said earlier, mine came yesterday, 3 weeks on.
Cervical Screening – My Results
They weren’t results I wanted to see quite honestly. I have a positive HPV reading and abnormal cells. A section of the letter reads as follows:
“Your sample was tested for abnormal cervical cells. It showed that there are some changes to some of the cells in your cervix called high-grade (severe) dyskaryosis.”
It sounds terrifying. Having spoken to a few friends and looking at good old Doctor Google, I’m actually not so scared now. I know they can do something, if needed, before it’s too late. The letter says it’s common but I really didn’t realise just how common!
It’s not necessarily cancer but had I not had this test then it could develop and I would be completely unaware.
So this is why this post will have a second part. I’m going to use this opportunity to share my experience of the next stage.
I want everyone to make sure they are attending their cervical screening tests and stop dying unnecessarily. It’s better to know and do something about it before it’s too late don’t you think?
Please, help me spread the word by sharing this post far and wide. And keep an eye out for part 2.
For more information on Cervical Screening and HPV head over to the NHS website.