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What actually happens in a cervical smear test?

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Here's the leaflet I got along with the invitation

If you’ve never been to a smear test then prepare to have all the mystery removed! It’s a pretty simple procedure, you’ll be in and out before you know it.

1. You’ll receive an invite from your primary care trust to come and be screened. You need to call up and make an appointment with your GP, or at a contraceptive sexual health service. It’s difficult to get an accurate reading during your period, so don’t book the test three days before or after your period. When you ring, you can ask in advance for a female sample taker, the majority of people who work in this area are women, but just to be sure, if it’s important to you, you can always ask.

2. Don’t use spermicide barrier contraception or lube for 24 hours beforehand as the chemicals can affect the test. If you’re coming to the test after work, and worried about taking a shower, don’t be! Bathing or showering pre-test is not necessary.

3. Once you arrive and you’re called in, your clinician will explain the procedure. You should have received a ‘facts’ leaflet in the invitation too, which tells you everything you need to know. If you’ve had a bad experience before, or if you’re anxious, now is the time to tell your sample-taker. They want to know your anxieties so that they can put you at your ease. There’s no need to feel vulnerable, you’re in control of this situation.

4. You need to undress from your waist down, so if you’ve got a skirt on, just lift it up. You’ll not be exposed, you’ll always have some couch roll as a ‘modesty cover’. You’ll be asked to lie down with your knees gently falling apart. The speculum is put into your vagina and opened so that the sample-taker can see your cervix.

5. The nurse or doctor will use a small, very soft brush to take the cell sample. The brush goes around and sweeps the cervix five times to remove the cells from the surface of the cervix. It’s very quick and for most women, it’s absolutely fine. The results of the test will be sent to you in the post and they aim to have the results back to you in 2 weeks.”

Find out more: from Jo’s cervical cancer trust.

That’s it! It’s as simple as that.
A quick reminder of why this is so important: with 80 per cent of women in the target age group (25 to 64) attending for cervical screening,  the evidence suggests that a reduction in death rates of around 95 per cent is possible in the long term.
Put simply, if you go and attend regular smear tests it can save your life. So make that call, and go get that test!

Find out more: At the NHS screening site


One response »

  1. My worst tests have been with gp nurse. It’s not their speciality, seem nervous. Go to family planning centres if you can.


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