I faced my fears and had my smear. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35.
I’m 58, not in my 20’s or 30’s, and I had my cervical smear in February 2018. I was late with it, 7 years instead of 5, and my next smear in 2023 a the age of 63, will be my last one.
I’ve been having smears since I was a teenager, in fact since I started having sexual intercourse with my now husband of 37 years, and had them every 3 years without fail, up until the age of 50, then every 5 years, albeit I was a little late with this last one. I understand that women don’t have smears nowadays until they are 25. Can’t quite understand this as my thinking is that as soon as a woman is sexually active, she should be having smears. It would appear that cases of cervical cancer under 25 are rare, so the NHS has obviously done a calculation – risk of getting cervical cancer over cost of the smear.
I will admit that I was a little nervous about having the smear. After going through my menopause, my body has certainly changed and nowhere more so than my vagina. It’s certainly drier down there. However, the practice nurse at my GP surgery was great. She’s a woman of my own age, and when I explained about my nerves and my issue with vaginal dryness, she put me at my ease. Lubricant can’t be used on the speculum because it can affect the outcome of the test, but I didn’t feel any discomfort when Karen inserted the speculum, then used the ‘brush’ to collect the cells from the cervix, and did you know that you can have different sized speculums – small, medium and large. I requested a small one.
The smear was over with in a jiffy, and I didn’t feel a single thing. Test results are taking around 6 weeks in my area, but Karen did say that because I’d had no bleeding, no discharge, no discomfort during intercourse, other than occasionally due to dryness, and the only sexual partner I’d had was my husband, that everything should be ok. I will be pleased to get the ‘all-clear’ letter through though.
The biggest cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV for short. HPV is a wart virus and the genital HPV is highly contagious, meaning the more sexual partners you have, the more you are putting yourself at risk, especially if you don’t use barrier methods like condoms. Here’s some more information on HPV from the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/
I would encourage all women from 25 to 65 to have their regular smear tests. Like many cancers, if caught early enough the outcome is usually good.