Ladies, Lend Me Your Ears : Don’t Forget Your Smears!

I’ve written previously about what involved during a smear test, getting your results & any treatment that may be required, which you can read here.

In the UK, the NHS estimates that around 5 million women are overdue for their cervical screening. The number of women undergoing their routine smear tests is worrying at a 21-year low.

In an attempt to combat this, there have been increasing media and health authority campaigns. In addition, it’s been suggested that a DIY screening kit may be made available by the end of 2019 (though I’ve no idea how one would physically achieve this themselves!) along with a change in provider from Capita, who have made a series of blunders of late, including the failure to send invites to 50,000 patients in 2018.

Sadly, the influx of campaigns to encourage women to get their smears has coincided with the closure of laboratories running the test results. This has meant that for many, the wait may be far longer than the anticipated 2 weeks from the time of the test, to the time of receiving a letter in the mail with your results.

There are various possible reasons for the low uptake, from fear, embarrassment and thinking they have no symptoms, to believing it’s not useful or simply not getting around to it.

Some conditions, including the likes of a tilted uterus or pelvic floor dysfunction, can make these tests more uncomfortable, sometimes very painful. Nurses are trained to act with compassion and consideration, so if you have any concerns, voice them before the test and speak up if you need the doc to stop at any point. Don’t feel like you’re at the mercy of a nightmare nurse or doctor; they should try to make it as quick and comfortable as possible.

If you have the ability to be screened, please do consider it. If you’re experiencing any worrying symptoms and you haven’t been invited to a screening, such as if you’re under 25 in the UK, please persevere; you know your body and too many women are slipping through the net without checks.

The delightful bed in my GP practice.

I had my follow-up smear recently to check everything is okay (fingers crossed) since my treatment the other year for abnormal high grade cell changes. Granted, it’s not the most pleasant thing you’ll have done, but it could be one of the most important.

Caz  ♥

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38 Comments

  1. March 26, 2019 / 4:27 pm

    Yes, this is very important. No, it’s not a fun activity. But, the smear could save your life. Thanks for the reminder.

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:16 pm

      Absolutely! And thank you for the great comment 🙂
      Have a lovely weekend x

  2. March 26, 2019 / 4:40 pm

    Out of curiosity how frequently are these recommended? In the US it used to be an annual thing which I always referred to as a lube job

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:18 pm

      A good question. In the UK, you get invited between the ages of 25 to 49 every 3 years. Age 50 – 64 is every 5 years. Over 65 you don’t get them unless one of your last 3 tests showed abnormal cells. A ‘lube job’? Hahah. How often is it now over there, if it’s not annual anymore? x

  3. March 26, 2019 / 4:41 pm

    I am one who has voiced last October when at new doctors, that I no longer want the smear and why.
    All mine have been fine before and as I have said to nurse, if I feel something is wrong, I will see her, although I won’t want to come.

    I have never liked smears, but when I was raped in my early 20’s, I have hated them and fill with dread. They are never comfortable for me, no matter what they do to make it better. And I am not one for inserting one.

    It got to the point after knowing what that ex was like who turned out to be a pervert, that no one is touching me there. No one. It was unbearable before, from all the time I was raped in first relationship. But after discussing he was no angel. No one is touching me. And I feel very strongly about that. It’s like the trauma all over again for me when I have my smear.

    This is first time I have said it publicly. I have wanted to blog about this. But after I read someone else who blogged but got no respect for her decision by other people who left her comments there, it put me off blogging about it.

    • Ashley
      March 26, 2019 / 5:18 pm

      I think it makes so much sense that after control over that part of your body was ripped away from you that you would now want to keep control in every way you can. People with vaginismus also tend to have a horrendous time with pelvic exams. We need to trust women to make their own decisions about their bodies, and attempts to get more people screened should be focused on the people who are ambivalent rather than people who’ve already made their decision.

      • March 29, 2019 / 5:30 pm

        Absolutely, good point about control. And yes, the issue of things like vaginismus. I did mention things like tilted uterus and pelvic floor dysfunction, but lots of conditions can make smears incredibly uncomfortable, painful and in some cases just unbearable. We do have to make our own decisions. I just don’t like thinking there are too many who don’t get the invitation and forget to follow-up and chase for an appointment, or that there are people who are too embarrassed to go (which is also v.understandable). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ashley 🙂
        xx

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:28 pm

      I think you have done a fantastic job of writing this, Liz, I can appreciate it couldn’t have been easy to put it ‘out there’ by posting it here. This is why I say it’s an individual decision and something so traumatic, like what you went through? It’s no wonder you don’t want them and that is 100% okay, 100% your choice. Don’t let anyone make you feel any less for your decision and it angers me that other bloggers may get crap for stating their decisions behind this; please don’t let that put you off. Your blog is your personal space to write what you want. And this topic is important, so if you want to write it, I’d say go for it. You won’t be the only one in such a position who’s been so violated and can’t face a smear test. It needs to be said, whether others agree or not. But the choice is ultimately yours as to whether you share your personal experiences, just don’t regret not doing it for fear of ignorant minds leaving comments. Thanks so much for sharing this, Liz xx

  4. Jan Vining
    March 26, 2019 / 4:53 pm

    This is very important, I had to have a hysterectomy when I was 30 because of grade 4 cancer of the cervix. I had had a smear the year previously with some abnormal cells, but no follow up until I changed GP. Was then told about the cancer.
    I know it is not a pleasant thing to have done but it is very important.

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:56 pm

      Is everything okay, since the hysterectomy? I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, and at only 30. Smears really can save lives, even though they’re not nice to have done. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Jan  ♥

  5. Bo
    March 26, 2019 / 4:57 pm

    5 million? My god.

    (Dear, letting you know my blog is now private; you’ll need to ask for permission so I can grant you access. It’s easy, you’ll see.Hope to see you there.)

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:39 pm

      Yeah, it’s quite a shocking figure.
      Just spotted that & have requested permission. Pretty please, let me in! 🙂
      xx

  6. March 26, 2019 / 4:57 pm

    Yeah, this is what my doctor tells me! Sigh.

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:57 pm

      Yeah, sigh indeed. It’s not nice to have done; it can be hugely important, but it’s also a personal decision as to whether to have it done that only we as individuals can make. xx

  7. March 26, 2019 / 5:34 pm

    These are so important to do. At some point you don’t have to do them anymore if you have no family history and are 70 years old.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

    • March 29, 2019 / 5:58 pm

      That’s right. I think it’s over 65 in the UK, unless you’ve had abnormal results in one of your last three smears. Thanks for the comment, Sandee. Have a lovely weekend =]

  8. March 26, 2019 / 7:48 pm

    Hi, Caz Sending good karma your way. Did you not want to participate in the “show your thinking cap”? you may not be up to which is totally cool. I had Cervical Cancer at 28 and since my family history for ovarian cancer was strong, I had to have a total hysterectomy. It a big decision at that age. I went every year, so it’s very important to get that yearly exam. Hugs

    • March 29, 2019 / 6:07 pm

      I just don’t know when I’ll post it – maybe when I next do a mini me update? Or I could do it on social media first maybe. I have a mother’s day post for the weekend first 🙂
      I’m so sorry you had to go through so much and at such a young age, and you’re right, a total hysterectomy is a big decision. With family history of ovarian cancer too it’s a daunting prospect. Was your cervical cancer picked up on a routine smear, or did you go in with symptoms? Thank you so much for sharing your experience here, Melinda  ♥

  9. March 26, 2019 / 8:19 pm

    Very important. That is a lot of women who could be at risk, 5 million!

    • March 29, 2019 / 6:11 pm

      It’s quite a shocking number, isn’t it? x

  10. March 27, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    I hate doing this. Good luck with yours!

    • March 29, 2019 / 4:39 pm

      Thanks, Alice! Yeah, not the most pleasant thing to do but very important nonetheless. You’d like to think in this day & age they’d make such tests easier and less off-putting for people! x

  11. March 28, 2019 / 12:06 pm

    Thank you for bringing awareness to this!

    It is truly important. At 15 years old, I was diagnosed with fast growing abnormal lesions which then turned cancerous and dangerous. I had no idea when I went in for my first exam that I’d be in for such a shock. A few years later, I was undergoing several surgeries to deal with this issue.

    It is hard for a lot of women. Even with my history, sadly I admit that after many very terrible experiences, I am now long overdue for my female exams. But it is much needed, even when you don’t expect for it to be.

    • March 29, 2019 / 4:36 pm

      I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, and at such a young age, too. It just shows that we need to listen to our bodies and push for these tests, otherwise age restrictions can get in the way of speedy diagnosis and treatment. I hope you manage to get booked in for your next exam soon though I can imagine how unpleasant even thinking about it probably is for you. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Holly  ♥

      • March 30, 2019 / 8:27 pm

        You are most welcome, Caz 🙂 Thank you for your kind reply. It was certainly an ordeal to go through (along with a whole lot of other catastrophic health conditions), but I know you understand all too well sadly. 🙁

        Have a beautiful day sweetheart!

        • March 31, 2019 / 5:02 pm

          You are certainly one strong lady, Holly. I’m glad to have ‘met’ you in the blogging world recently! I hope the week ahead is kind to you  ♥

  12. March 30, 2019 / 7:57 am

    thanks for sharing this I do think it’s important and I have read so much about yet I still have this great fear of anxiety about it especially after having a traumatic time with children. Perhaps the anxiety side is a great deal of people’s battles and the time it’s taken to be done is quicker than the actual worry.

    • March 30, 2019 / 4:13 pm

      I’m sorry you feel that same fear and anxiety about it, too. You’re right, the time you spend worrying about it is longer and worse than the experience itself, but it’s not surprising so many are put off by the thought of a smear test, especially if you’ve had negative or traumatic experiences in the past linked to your body. I can say though that I’m glad I had it done, even though I’ve got problems that makes it more painful for me; knowing you can tell them to stop at any time is helpful, and you may just find it’s really straightforward and nowhere near as bad as you thought. But only you can make that decision. Thanks so much for the comment, Lilyth – Have a lovely weekend 🙂

  13. April 1, 2019 / 12:04 pm

    I didn’t realise that labs were closed and that’s why my results took four months to come back – makes sense now!

    It’s crazy that so many women aren’t going when it’s such a straight forward procedure that can save your life, but it’s a very personal decision.

    • April 1, 2019 / 3:15 pm

      Four months, yikes! Yes, it’s stupid to close labs when they’re so vitally important and there’s already a backlog. They don’t seem to ‘get’ what it’s like for patients who have to wait for results like this, either. It is a personal decision, so I don’t want to sound forceful in my efforts to raise awareness and suggest others go for it, I just don’t like to think people are put off by horror stories or fear of embarrassment. Thanks for the comment, Rachel, it’s much appreciated!xx

  14. April 3, 2019 / 1:55 am

    you are always so good to call these things to our attention – even if the folks who read it are getting theirs, it reminds us to remind others

    • April 5, 2019 / 4:22 pm

      It’s like pass-the-reminder, a good way of looking at it. I don’t think it can hurt to do it, especially when it’s something so important. Thanks! 🙂
      xx

  15. April 3, 2019 / 11:03 pm

    When I first read this title, and didn’t see the picture, I thought it was about Smear Campaigns; I did a double-take, and thought, “I need to have a little chat with her to help her understand that “smears” aren’t considered a positive thingy.” But, then when I saw the picture, I hit myself in the head, and was like “duhhhh”, to myself. 😜

    • April 5, 2019 / 4:21 pm

      Hahaha, I can see why there was confusion! Nope, smear campaigns aren’t good. Smear tests aren’t nice but they are good. Glad that’s all sorted 😉

  16. April 6, 2019 / 1:52 pm

    Great post Caz! We all know this is never fun, but it only lasts a short time and we can continue living life to the fullest!!

    • April 6, 2019 / 10:15 pm

      If we can keep that in mind – that it’s a quick procedure in the grand scheme of things and it’ll be over before we know it – that can help put it into perspective and make it less daunting. xx

  17. April 21, 2019 / 9:49 pm

    Important reminder… ♥ Sharing!

    • April 22, 2019 / 2:18 pm

      I’m glad you agree, it’s definitely good to have the reminder & try to dispel worries of embarrassment if that holds some ladies back. Thanks, Bette!  ♥
      xx

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