Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide but is also the most preventable cancer. Cervical screening is of utmost importance, yet data suggest that 1 in 3 women and people with a cervix do not attend cervical screening appointments.
Cervical screening awareness Week (20-26 June) focuses on raising awareness of cervical screening and provides information and support for those who have been diagnosed with cervical cell changes or HPV.
Why do you need to go for a smear test?
The aim of cervical screening/ a smear test is to detect human papillomaviruses (HPV) disease early. This is because cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer when detected early.
A smear test is a test that checks the health of your cervix - the small opening to your womb that opens slightly during ovulation and completely during childbirth. It tells you whether you are at a high or low risk of developing cervical abnormalities that could lead to cancer.
Many women feel anxious about a smear test/cervical screening. They may be worried about the shape of their genitals which makes them uncomfortable, and they believe they will feel embarrassed. We need to break the stigma attached to cervical screening and encourage young adults to get the test. There is nothing uncomfortable or abnormal about having this done.
Does cervical screening hurt?
Everyone’s experience of cervical screening is different. Many people don’t find it painful or uncomfortable. Some people find it can be slightly uncomfortable, and others will say it hurts. There are lots of reasons, physical and psychological, for this. It is important to tell your nurse or doctor if cervical screening is painful for you. If you want to go for cervical screening, there are ways to make the test more comfortable and make sure you get the right support.
How to make cervical screening easier
1. Book a time when you don’t have your period
2. Wear comfortable clothes, a skirt if possible
3. Ask for a woman to do the test when you make the appointment
4. Bring someone with you to the appointment
5. Tell the person doing the test if it’s your first time or if you’re uncomfortable so they can give you the right support
6. Ask to change position if it’s uncomfortable
7. Relax your muscles to make testing easier
8. Distract yourself so you don’t think about it
9. Ask for a smaller speculum
10. Don’t worry about your genitals- they’ve seen it all before
11. Treat yourself to something afterwards
12. If you feel uncomfortable saying something, write it down
Cervical screening can prevent over 70% of cervical cancer diagnoses. We know life can get in the way, but don’t put your health on the line. Get your test today.