How to get your vagina smear ready and make the test stress free
There can't be many women who enjoy making an appointment for a cervical screening.
The test, where cells are brushed from the walls of your cervix, is not usually painful but it can feel a bit awkward.
Even so, there's the undeniable fact: smear tests save lives.
New research suggests as many as 2,000 women are saved every year in England as a result.
But, experts say it could be many, many more if all women aged 25-64 in the UK took the test when invited - which is normally every three years.
"Sometimes women feel a bit embarrassed or awkward about the whole thing," says Jess Kirby from Cancer Research UK.
"Although it can be a bit embarrassing, I would say try and get over it because it can save lives."
So here's how to get smear-test ready
Book your cervical screening appointment for the middle of your cycle so you're not on your period.
"If you're on your period it just means that there might be a bit of blood in the sample," says Jess.
"Then it's quite hard to see what the cells actually look like when they get to the lab."
Wear something comfortable. A skirt is useful so you don't have to take everything off from the waist down.
"The nurse will ask you to lie down on the couch. She'll then put a speculum inside your vagina - this is to hold it open, so she can see what she's doing," explains Jess.
"She'll then pop a little flexible brush up there and take a small sample of cells."
Don't use any creams, medication or lubricants in your vagina before your smear.
Jess advises: "These things can also get into the sample and make it difficult to see.
"It doesn't actually effect the result but it can make it hard for the person who's looking at the sample to see what it is."
You can always ask for a female nurse, ask for a chaperone or take a friend with you.
Jess says: "More often than not you'll get a female nurse anyway, but you can request one just to be sure."
Even if you've had the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccination, still go for your cervical screening.
"The vaccine covers some but not all of the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer," says Jess.
"It's really great at reducing the risk of getting the disease, but there are still some cases it won't prevent.
"So, screening is still really important for women who have had the vaccine."
Even if you're feeling tense, relax. If your muscles are relaxed it will make it easier for the nurse to collect cell samples from your cervix.
"The main thing is just to be relaxed, because the more relaxed you are the more comfortable it will be," explains Jess.
"There's no need to be embarrassed, the nurses see this sort of thing all the time."
"A smear test saved my life"
Hazey from Sheffield was feeling like so many other people when she went for her smear.
"I was dreading it. I was looking for any excuse not to go," she says.
"Thank God I did go because it came back that I was actually HPV positive."
She says it was a little bit scary at the time because she didn't really understand much about it.
"They gave me an appointment to go to hospital to have a biopsy and then have the pre-cancerous cells removed," she explains.
"It's a little bit scary because I've got a son. I think you do think you're invincible."
Hazey says it was worrying but the staff at the hospital put her at ease.
"Thank God I went really because if I'd left those cells and not known about them they definitely would have turned cancerous.
"I'm just so grateful and would encourage anybody to do it because it's definitely saved my life."
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