The impressive, Irish innovators leading the way in sustainable fashion
The impressive, Irish innovators leading the way in sustainable fashion

Geraldine Carton

Finally, science tells us age 35 isn’t a fertility cliff
Finally, science tells us age 35 isn’t a fertility cliff

Jennifer McShane

This tiny house in Leitrim took just €25,000 – and 50 days – to build
This tiny house in Leitrim took just €25,000 – and 50 days – to build

IMAGE Interiors & Living

Ireland’s Rachael Blackmore becomes first female jockey to ever win the Grand National
Ireland’s Rachael Blackmore becomes first female jockey to ever win the Grand National

Sarah Finnan

What’s on this week: Monday 12 – Friday 16 April
What’s on this week: Monday 12 – Friday 16 April

Holly O'Neill

Get back to the great outdoors with these top tips for hiking safely in Ireland
Get back to the great outdoors with these top tips for hiking safely in Ireland

Lauren Heskin

How can you use an MBA to accelerate your career?
How can you use an MBA to accelerate your career?

IMAGE

Image / Editorial

Why your smear test is nothing to be nervous about


by Hannah Hillyer
09th Feb 2019
blank

I got my first smear test this week. At 27, I am two years over the suggested age to get your very first one, so why did it take me so long?

First off, I never received the letter informing me I was due a smear test. Once I hit 26, and my Mum asked if I’d had mine, I used this as an excuse. I never got the letter so I must be off the hook, right? Obviously not. I knew full well I had to book it but buried my head in the sand instead.

Speaking with friends and colleagues, this is not uncommon, with many admitting they had done the same or were still to book theirs. But why are we all putting it off when we know cervical cancer can develop at a young age? As recently as January we heard sad the news of Alice Taylor, who died of cervical cancer at just 26.

Related: Vicky Phelan urges women to continue to go for smear tests despite delays

What was I so nervous about?

If putting things on the long finger was an Olympic Sport, I’d be a gold medallist. To be honest this was because I was so anxious, thinking it would be equal parts embarrassing and painful. I dreaded it. I didn’t listen to my Mum or friends when they told me it’s absolutely fine and just a little uncomfortable. Instead I thought this was just women minimising something to make it less daunting (women are very good at that).

As for embarrassing, yes it’s not exactly fun to have someone peering in-between your legs, but having had multiple bikini waxes you get over it quite quickly, and your doctor doesn’t think twice about it either.

Luckily my GP is incredibly patient and put me at ease almost immediately. I couldn’t believe when it was over asking, ‘was that it?’ What I had built up in my head for months on end was really very painless and simple.

Related: Despite the breach of trust, please, don’t stop having smears

Step by step- what happens?

The procedure really is so simple and over quickly for most people. First your doctor will ask you to undress completely from the waist down and to lie on the bed with your knees slightly apart.

When you’re comfortable they will insert a speculum into your vagina, which holds it open so the cervix is visible. Then, using a small brush, your doctor will collect some cells from the cervix. You may not feel this, but some women feel a slight scratching sensation, but this shouldn’t be painful.

How to make it easier

Breathe. Do some deep breathing in the waiting area before you go in as you want to be as relaxed as possible. Going in feeling tight and tensed up will only make things more difficult.

Wear a dress or skirt. You’re already going to feel a bit awkward and if wearing a dress means you have a bit of your modesty preserved (I didn’t fancy the idea of wearing a top and trousers and then being naked from the waist down). This may sound trivial but anything that makes you feel more at ease and relaxed will make it much quicker and straightforward.

Don’t look. I found by not looking at the speculum it was a little less scary- just lie back, close your eyes and breathe.

Be vocal. If you’re nervous, tell your GP. They should be completely understanding of this and walk you through it slowly. Also, do the same if you are finding it painful, you can stop at any time. If you’re finding the procedure uncomfortable your doctor can reposition you or even use a smaller speculum to make it easier.

Find a nice GP. Sounds obvious but this makes all the difference. From talking to people who perhaps haven’t had the best experience, it’s usually down to the doctor. If you don’t have a regular GP, or don’t feel comfortable booking a smear test with your usual doctor, we would suggest asking around. Speak to friends and family who would recommend their GP and book with them instead. Ideally you want someone who makes you feel comfortable and isn’t trying to rush you out the door.

Just book it

It’s easy when you’re in your mid-twenties to believe you’re invincible, that there’s no possible way cervical cancer could affect you.  A smear test is often regarded as an unpleasant nuisance, easy to put on that list of ‘things I really need to get around to’. Day-to-day it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue so its so easy to keep saying you’ll book it next week.

The thing is, getting it done could save your life, so just book it.

Header Image: Unsplash

Also Read

Keith-_-Tara_130_Web Shantanu Starick painting kitchen cabinets
EDITORIAL
How to limit drips and brush strokes while painting kitchen cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets can be transformative and can be achieved relatively low-cost,...

By Amanda Kavanagh

blank
HEALTH & WELLNESS
The trickle of information from the Government on restrictions has made a grim situation so much worse

By Amanda Cassidy

blank
EDITORIAL
Is marketplace feminism stealing the limelight from real female-driven issues?

‘Femertising’ is big business. Brands are increasingly taking advantage of...

By Amanda Cassidy

blank
EDITORIAL
Vaccine envy: ‘Why a year of Covid has brought out the begrudgers’

By Amanda Cassidy

Taylor Swift
EDITORIAL
I was not a fan of Taylor Swift. Then I watched her documentary

The documentary Miss Americana has shown a different side to...

By Edaein OConnell

blank
EDITORIAL
“You’re weird Mammy… other mothers iron”: Author Elske Rahill on writing and motherhood

“Every baby costs you a book” – that’s something women...

By IMAGE

shells cafe
EDITORIAL
A Sligo cottage is transformed into a cool and cosy surfers’ haven

Still one of our favourite homes ever, the easy-breezy interiors...

By IMAGE Interiors & Living

Women with MS who take medication, especially immunosuppressants, cannot become pregnant unless they come off medication.
premium HEALTH & WELLNESS, REAL-LIFE STORIES
I had to weigh up the possibility of losing my mind against losing my future children

Holograms of the children she may never have dance across Dearbhla Crosses' mind as an MS diagnosis and Covid-19 are unwelcome reminders of her biological clock ticking.

By Dearbhla Crosse