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April 19, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Ladies, please

I’ll never forget my first time. My mother had been hounding me for two years to go. Finally, after a rant about how I could have cervical cancer and not know about it, I made an appointment with my doctor and dropped my pants. My first cervical smear was interesting, for lack of a better word. The results were all good.

I guess I was lucky. Smears are quite the taboo among women and can cause considerable stress for the uninitiated. A little rundown on the how to:

  1. The best time is around 10 days after your period has finished. This is when you will get the clearest results, and trust me—you don’t want anything to skew these results.
  2. You can request someone in the room for support, and if you have a male doctor you can request a female nurse in the room if you feel a little uncomfortable.
  3. Make sure you’re clean. Don’t feel the need for vajazzling (Google it), but a bit of a wash between walking up the hill and dropping your drawers might be nice.
  4. Some doctors warm the speculum. If they don’t, feel free to ask them to.
  5. Cover your knees with the towel. For everyone’s sake. It’s right there on the bed. Please.
  6. Don’t be afraid of the speculum. Or the scratchy feeling. You hear a few clicks then feel a little scraping on your cervix. This is normal, just relax and remember to breathe.
  7. The doctor’s face should not be so close that you can feel their breath. Gross.
  8. Some doctors make small talk about your cervix or how your day has been. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, tell them.
  9. It’s suggested you get a smear after every sexual partner, along with an STI check. Your doctor is not allowed to be judgemental or condescending.
  10. You should have a smear every three years.

It can be scary, and quite an intimate procedure. Unlike checking breasts for lumps, we cannot check the health of our cervix in the privacy of our homes. The whole procedure takes less than 15 minutes and there is nothing like the relief of opening the little envelope and knowing that your cervix is perfectly healthy.

If you’re a girl, if you’re over 20 and if you’ve ever been sexually active, you should probably go and have a cervical smear—if you haven’t gone and had one already.

Why? Well it turns out that having a cervical smear every three years is one of the best ways of preventing the development of cervical cancer.

The National Cervical Screening Programme’s website says that women who have regular smear tests every three years as part of a screening programme reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer by about 90 per cent. 

Cervical cancer results from an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells of the cervix. The main cause of cervical cancer is the very common human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV comes in various forms, however, it is the genital variety (a sexually transmitted infection, surprise surprise) that can lead to abnormal cell changes and the development of cervical cancer.

So a cervical smear is checking for abnormal changes to the cells on the surface of the cervix. Abnormalities can be treated before they develop into cancer. Huzzah!

And the moral of the story? It’s really important to go and have a regular cervical smear. Pop along to Student Health or Family Planning and make yourself an appointment. It’s not as bad as you think.

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