I had my first smear test when I was about 25. I visited a family planning centre (in Trinidad) where it was done with what felt like swift heartless efficiency. The instrument felt cold like ice. I didn’t see what it looked like; my eyes were closed. It was advised that smear tests should be done annually. I eventually went private. The gynaecologist was kind. She set me at ease AND the instrument was smaller (I was told, somethings I rather not see). One check highlighted a yeast infection. There were no symptoms, apparently it was early days. I popped a pill and it was gone. However, this isn’t always the case for some women. In UK only 71% of women illegible for smear tests do so. The Cervical Screening (smear) Test is done to check for abnormal cells on the cervix.
An All Time Low
Cervical cancer testing is at an all-time low. Younger women find it embarrassing. Older ladies perhaps may wonder what’s the point? According to Dr Hilary on GMTV’s Lorraine programme 5 million women are illegible but only 71 % getting checked. 900 women die of cervical cancers yearly because they can’t recognize symptoms which are:
- Abnormal bleeding: during or after sexual intercourse, or between periods
- Post menopausal bleeding: if you are not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or have stopped it for six weeks or more
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
- Lower back pain.
Having the test done, is an act of protection against an illness that can be treated if detected in time.
Smear Tests in the UK
When I moved to England, I was told that the smear tests were done every three years. The nurse said the annual check was not necessary. Then, she kindly warmed the instrument and went about the task with tenderness and care. Honestly, that has been my experience ever since. I’ve had about 5 tests one; they have all clear and fine.
According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust:
In the UK, you are automatically invited for cervical screening if you are:
- between the ages of 25 to 64
- registered as female with a GP surgery.
You are invited:
- every 3 years between age 25 and 49
- every 5 years between age 50 and 64.
You may get your first invite up to 6 months before you turn 25. You can book an appointment as soon as you get the invite.
Okay, it’s not the most pleasant experience but having a smear test done is a great act of self-care. Believe it or not I do manage to have a conversation with my nurse and crack jokes while having it done.
I believe my role as a parent is not just to care for my children but so show them how to look after their well-being. Lead by example I say. May be younger ladies will be less shy about the matter, if we mature ladies lead the way.
Images from Pexel.com