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Monday, 13 April 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOING FOR A SMEAR TEST


A lifestyle blog about the importance of going for a smear test and how facing your fears could save your life
image source
I turned 25 in July 2014 and received my letter from the NHS advising me I'd need to go for my first smear test as an early birthday present. I ignored it.

Not on purpose as such, just, I put it to the back of my mind and subsequently forgot about it for a good 6 months.

January 2015 rolled around, Daniel and I had been separated for quite a while and I wanted to get myself checked out, you know, down there. Then I remembered: 'Shit Megs, you didn't ever go for that smear'. So I booked them both in for the same week.

The thought of the smear test didn't bother me too much. I'd been poked and prodded down there over the years and I knew it would be over in a flash.

And ladies, seriously, it'll take you longer to whip your knickers off than it will for them to actually carry out the procedure. For the sake of 30 seconds of hating your life and screaming inside 'OH MY GOD STOP LOOKING AT MY VAGINA, IT'S MINE OKAY?' it's totally worth it. It didn't hurt at all and those nurses see so many vagina's, it's really no biggie.

Within two weeks I'd received my results. The news wasn't perfect.

I had HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which is transferred via sexual intercourse, but isn't a STI (confusing) - most women are infected with it at some point in their lives and it'll usually clear up on it's own; there are over 100 types, but mostly there will be no symptoms. Basically it's nothing to worry about - it's like the flu for your vagina (but way less gross).
I also had medium-grade dyskaryosis, i.e. slight changes to the cells on my cervix - yay. Like with HPV, more often than not they will return to normal by themselves, but sometimes, they'll develop and can eventually end up leading to cancer.
Because I had both HPV and Dyskaryosis it meant I had to go to the hospital to have a biopsy, so they could test these pesky cells and make sure that there wasn't anything more sinister going on down there.

This experience was slightly more invasive, but I got to sit on a massive chair with leg stirrups, so: silver linings.
The nurses were incredible. One was holding my hand whilst the specialist talked me through exactly what was going to happen. She explained that the way the NHS word the letters were a bit naff (I think she meant to say totally shit) and that there really was nothing to be worried about at all. Because I was worried, actually. They'd told me I had two things wrong with me as if it was as casual as having milk with coffee. The letters themselves didn't really explain what all these long words meant and were super clinical, so I had to google everything, meaning I was anxious to say the least. But the consultant was absolutely brilliant and made me feel at ease - she was factual, but kind.

She used a teeny tiny camera to take a look at my cervix in more detail, told me to cough so she could nip off a cell or two to send off for testing and that was it. Done.
I felt a bit faint afterwards with a slight tummy ache, they gave me an industrial pad the size of a nappy (y'know to stop any messes after the biopsy) made me stay with them until the colour returned to my cheeks and sent me on my way. Apart from feeling a bit tender, it was nothing, really.

When I got back from Bali I had a letter waiting in my room. It told me that I had Grade 3 CIN (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia) which in a nutshell, is when there are changes to the surface cells of the cervix. It's not cancer, but can increase the risk of it developing. Like with HPV and Dyskaryosis, there are no symptoms, you can still continue to have sex and live a normal lifestyle (hence the real importance of smear tests, you'd never know without them).

In total, there are 3 grades of CIN, which I've nabbed off the Macmillan website for your reference :-)
  1. CIN 1 – this is when one-third of the thickness of the surface layer of the cervix is affected.
  2. CIN 2 – this is when two-thirds of the thickness of the surface layer of the cervix is affected.
  3. CIN 3 – this is when the full thickness of the surface layer of the cervix is affected.
I have a hospital appointment booked in next week, where they'll perform a little operation on my cervix through local anesthetic called Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), which uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop to cut out the abnormal tissue. Yeah, it all sounds a bit scary doesn't it?

Scary, but SO important.

The procedure involves the doctor spraying an iodine solution over my cervix, to highlight the cells and then using LEEP to remove the CIN cells. I know it wont be the best experience I've ever had, I'll feel a bit rough and sorry for myself/cervix afterwards - but it's a small, teeny, tiny price to pay for the risk of what could happen if I didn't go at all.

This little operation could be potentially saving my life.

Once it's done I'll have to go back every 6 months for a repeat smear, just to make sure everything is okay.

So the real point of me getting up-close and personal today? Is to say that if you received your letter and thought 'meh, maybe I'll give that a miss' - Please don't.

Please go.

Look after yourself and don't let the fear of feeling a bit self conscious about your private bits put you off saving your body some serious health issues.

It's more than worth it.

YOU are more than worth it.

Be brave.
Oh and just as an FYI, I don't have any STI's, either. YAY.

32 comments:

Alice said...

This is so important and so good of you to write it. I put off my smear for over a year as well, and finally got around to it after a niggling in my ear. Thankfully mine was all clear, but it really showed me how important it is to go - and you're right, the initial procedure is so quick and didn't hurt me at all!

Tea Party With Alice

Jenny J said...

Well done Megs for writing this. It is so so so important. I put mine off for a while. But I lived in Wales, where you're invited at 20 (well you were back then, not sure now), so still had it done when I was 21. I've had two more since. My last was hilarious as she couldn't find my cervix. Pillows under bums, laughing, coughing, just to be told it points in a funny direction. Seriously nurses really don't care about looking up your whatsit, they do it all day everyday. I've always had the all clear, but know lots of friends who have been through the same thing as you. To anyone reading this, please don't put it off. It really doesn't hurt and it's over in a few minutes. And if you're me you can have a right old laugh with your nurse too :P x

Anonymous said...

This is such a good article! I went through the same thing a while back. I've had the LEEP and this July will be my 'final' smear test (at least for 5 years) if it's clear again.
Wish you the best of luck!

Elyse said...

This is so important to write this, so thank you! I went for my first time at the OLD age of 28, because I thought it would hurt or be embarassing or something, but I found out it was neither of those things. I can't believe I waited so long, because it really is no big deal, but it's so important. Thanks for sharing!

Claudia Stenhouse said...

Smear's are so important and I'm glad you've written this post to help others. When I received my letter I called my doctors immediately just to get it over and done with but I was nervous wreck! But I'm so glad I did it. I'm sure it will be fine but I hope your operation goes well! xxx

Amie said...

This post is very timely! Only this morning did I have my laser treatment which you are due to have soon. As you mentioned the nurses were absolutely fantastic, talking to me throughout the treatment and trying to take my mind off things. I also took my mum along for moral support. The local anathestic did sting for a few seconds and doing this took longer than the laser itself. The laser is relatively pain free with just a bit of tugging. It was over in about ten minutes which was so much quicker than I thought. They have recommended I take the day off work as I am feeling sore and a little tender. I whole heartedly agree that you shouldn't put off your smear test. This followed from my first smear test and although it's been quite stressful and I am so relived I went and just hope my results show clear! Good luck :-) x

Ashleigh Roy MUA said...

Such an important topic to write about and raise awareness on through your own experience. I can relate to this post so much. About 9 months ago I went for my second smear (age 23) with no worries what so ever, this was down to my first smear (age 20) being all clear. Results came back and I have never panicked so much in my life when it stated there was changes to my cervix and that I was to await appointment at the colposcopy unit for further investigation. The letter never really said much else apart from changes hence why my mind was running in overdrive. I managed to get an appointment very quickly due to a cancellation. After a quick examination the Doctor could see I had moderate changes and decided to remove them right there and then with LEEP. They still took a biopsy to double check what grade the cells were that they were removing. After half an hour the whole procedure was over and I was on my feet and on my way out of the hospital. It wasn't a pleasant experience and I did feel a tad tender for around 1 week but I am so glad I went for my smear and then got my abnormal cells removed which were CIN 2. I have since been back for my 6 month checkup and have the all clear - everything looks normal and I'm back to every 3 years. Also, I moved to England not long after getting my abnormal cells removed, If I had moved to England around 8 weeks earlier I would have had to wait another 2 years to get my next smear as I was only 23. Things could have been completely diff if I never had my second smear at age 23. The age should be lowered. Anyway, I hope your procedure goes ok and you get the all clear soon! Don't worry :) x

Gillian: Eyeliner Flicks said...

So brave of you to share your experience. I find the nurses are usually so wonderful and any Drs I've had to deal with are also extremely lovely which really helps the situation.
I'm also currently awaiting the results of a biopsy after a colposcopy which was taken over 3 months ago now (getting irritated) and I cannot agree more, it's SUCH an important 5 minutes for ladies to take x
Gill xx EyelinerFlicks

Zoe Newlove said...

Totally gonna pass out when this happens. I already feel faint now... I AM SUCH A PANSY... Dreading my resultsssssssssssss. So glad you wrote this :) It will help lots of peoples like me to understand the whole process without getting too scared. xxxxx

Emily said...

This is such an important topic and I'm so glad you've written about it. Thank you for sharing your experience as well, that must have been daunting. My Mum has always told me never to miss a mammogram or smear because they really are super important. Like you said as well, they've seen so many vaginas and they're professionals!

Emily // Beauty and Lifestyle Blog

xx

Vic said...

Megs! I had this! Exactly the same!! I went for my op about 9months ago and thankfully got the all clear on my 6 month check up. I had all the same worries and I was really scared about the local anesthetic (I don't like needles) but the nurses were fab, we had a little sing along to the radio as they were getting set up and completely hide the needle from me so I never saw it, it was so quick!

I did feel groggy after and I'm glad me mum was there to take me home as I would not have wanted to drive myself. For the rest of the day I had a slight tummy ache, like period cramps, but that went the day after.

All girls should do this! It is so important! And the nurses who do it are experts and totally understand your nerves and anxieties. Just tell them and be brave! Xxx

Ceri Louise said...

This is such a great post! It's so so important for girls to get checked. I was told a while ago that I had cervical erosion - where cells from the womb migrate onto the cervix and into the top of the vagina and causes odd bleeding (commonly caused by the pill), so I had my smear test done asap - I think it was just before I was 25 actually - just to make sure everything was tickety boo, and thankfully it was. I do think they should do more regular check ups down there though, I would happily go in every 6/12 months just to be sure everything's okay. Granted I'm not exactly a fan of baring my noonie to random doctors/nurses, but like you say it's over so quick it's really no big deal!
Wishing you all the luck for your op next week :)
Go get your smears girls, don't put it off! xx

Jessica Jade said...

I can relate to this so much, thank you for writing this Meg! I had the ops in August last year and have my 6 month catch up on Friday - eeeeeeeeekkkkkkk! Although I did get a cervix infection after the op which was not fun, but it is certainly nothing we girls can't handle. Go get your smears done girls!x

Becky Broster said...

I never write comments on blogs but just wanted to say well done for writing this- I went through the same experience and felt scared and alone because its not really the type of thing you can just drop into conversation. But we should talk about it more because its so important and could save your life. Hope it all goes well for you x

Joanna. said...

I cannot believe women choose not to go for smear tests in the first place! I'm sorry to hear you got bad news, but hopefully all the proceedures will mean that everything will be a-ok in no time. I went for my first smear about two weeks after my birthday in November and thankfully everything came back clear - though my actual smear was super painful. I'll take your phrase and insert it here: silver linings and all that :) fingers crossed it all goes ok for you.

ohhellojo.blogspot.com

Trudy Johanna said...

This is an incredibly important topic and I'm so glad you highlighted this. X
www.trudyjohanna.co.uk

Nina said...

Well done for writing this post! I find the attitudes in the UK to smear tests and the gynaecologist so strange! In Germany women are very relaxed and laid back about going to the gyno for regular tests and check ups. The smear test is always hyped up which I think makes it even scarier for women. It's a tiny amount of discomfort for something that could ultimately be life saving! It can be embracing at first but the nurse or gynaecologist has seen thousands of vaginas haha.

I'm sorry you got bad news but well done for speaking out about it and for taking care of your body.
xxx
Nina from little nomad

Emyii Rankin said...

I've got to ring up for mine soon, im petrified =[

emyii90.blogspot.co.uk

Anonymous said...

This has just terrified me!!! I turn 25 at the end of the year and it's something I've always dreaded. I don't think I'd be able to cope if I hd a smear and then it came back that I needed even more tests!

I get that it's important and having lots of little procedures is nothing compared to actually having cancer, but I can't shake the fear of getting that letter later this year. Plus, I've never been 'active' if you catch my drift, so the thought of anyone sticking anything up there makes me incredibly nervous!

Lizi said...

This is an absolutely fantastic post, thank you so much for writing it! Even though I'm 2 years away from my first smear (which is shocking in itself as it should be standard for much younger women!) it's really reassured me about the process and made me realise exactly how important it is! Hope everything goes OK for you with your op xxx

Jemma D said...

Thank you for writing this, I'm not 25 yet so I'm not eligible for a smear but it is something I am terrified of! I didn't know about any of the things you just mentioned until now, I knew the smear was to screen for cervical cancer, but I didn't know about other problems it can detect and how they are treated. You wrote with just the right amount of reassurance and honesty, some people right about smears as if they are nothing and to me it always seems a bit false! I really appreciate you walking us through the process and procedures because it is so personal, but knowing someone who has already gone through it massively helps to put my mind at ease. xx

Charlotte Rumsby said...

This was such a weirdly interesting post Megs, so glad you went for your smear!

Charlotte / styleaked

Gemma Roberts said...

What a wonderfully brave and honest post. You really can't be careful enough with these things and if we live in a country where we are lucky enough to be invited for these treatments then let's make the most of it and use those opportunities. I went through a very similar experience a few years ago, and am totes fine now, but you honestly never know and who wants to risk something like that for a super quick check? Plus, not all countries start this procedure at 25, after recently moving to the Netherlands I discovered that here and many places in Europe don't offer a smear test until you reach 30. I know I'd much rather start checking at 25.

Well done for getting off your butt and going and for writing a kick ass post to share the importance of smear tests. Brave awesome lady : )

Gemma
Faded Windmills

Liza said...

Thank you so much for writing this! It is so so important and I hope everything goes okay for you.

Liza x

Anonymous said...

10 years ago I had this procedure and although not very pleasant it was worth the discomfort.

galaxycaramel69 said...

I've had that procedure done twice now. Both times I had it done under general anaesthetic as I didn't like the thought of needles "up there". It was much easier for me personally to do it this way. X

emmabovary said...

Thank you so much for writing this - am going to call and book in my test this week!

EmilyGrace said...

Great post! Thankyou so much for posting this! I have my smear test booked for next week and I'm not going to lie, i'm quite nervous about going!

Emily x // EmGrace

Mia said...

Such a fantastic blog piece. In Wales, we start having smears from the age of 21 but luckily for me, they've carried on from that now I've moved to London so I have another one in a few weeks. Such an important topic to discuss - thank you xx

Phoebe Ward said...

I was vaccinated for HPV in school but I know when the time for my smear arrives (im only 18 right now) It still important to go as there can be other causes of cervical changes other than HPV. The HPV vaccination was only introduced in 2008 and given to secondary school age children, so those who were vaccinated havnt reached 25 yet but I hope every one goes when the time comes as though you risk of any problems is lowered it isnt completely gone !! Best wishes for your procedure next week, big hugs xx

spidermonkeytwo said...

Wow jst watched ur vlog on this and wanted to give you a big hug. So scary. So impressed with you sharing this incredibly difficult time. Im sooooo anxious going for smears and have a tough time everytime i have to go. Its always painful because im anxious. Maybe ill be a bit braver next time because of your posts.

mahjong said...

Really impressive post. I read it whole and going to share it with my social circules. I enjoyed your article and planning to rewrite it on my own blog.
mahjong | agario | minecraft|halloween | pacman| kizi | hulk | mickey mouse games | sniper games | super smash flash

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