Everything You Need To Know About Getting Your Smear Test

In honour of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

If you’re over the age of 25, you should have received a letter in the post about booking your smear test.

But despite the reminder, some of us are still avoiding them. This week (22-28 January) is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which is the perfect time for us to urge you to make that appointment.

We understand that it can be nerve-wracking, and that there can be confusion over exactly what a smear test entails. So we thought we’d answer all your most-asked questions…

Why are smear tests important?

The number of women attending their regular smear test appointment is still down – most recent stats reveal there’s been a 3% drop.

Currently, 850 women a year lose their life to cervical cancer, with doctors suggesting this figure could rise by as much as 43% between now and 2035.  A regular smear test (every three years for women aged 25 to 49) is the only chance to spot it and, if caught early, survival is good – 63% of those diagnosed survive for 10 years or more.

‘Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers, as they identify abnormal cells that if not treated could develop into cancer,’ says Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. ‘Not attending is the biggest risk to developing the disease.’

Why do women ignore smear tests?

While avoidance is down to fear, embarrassment and inconvenience, a 2017 study revealed that 25% of the 3,100 women asked neglected theirs because they didn’t know the procedure existed.

That’s one in four of your friends.

Do smear tests hurt?

The most you are likely to expect is slight discomfort. A nurse or doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina and a specially designed brush to gather cells from the cervix.

You may have some spotting (very light bleeding) for a day after the procedure.

Are smear tests embarrassing?

The sample taker should cover you with a paper towel. However, if are feeling embarrassed about having the test, it may help you to feel more comfortable if you wear a skirt, or bring something from home to cover yourself with.

How long do smear tests take?

The actual procedure usually takes less than a minute. It’s very quick.

Can you have a smear test on your period?

The best time (if possible) for a cervical screening to be taken is in the middle of your menstrual cycle, halfway between one period and the next. This enables the cytologist to examine the best possible specimen and achieve the best possible report.

The message is simple: If your test is due soon, attend – then make sure you spread the word.