The importance of having a smear test
I’ve lost count of the amounts of times I’ve uttered the words “I’m glad I’m not a woman.” As a self-confessed feminist, women get a raw deal. But what does this have to do with the importance of having a smear test?
It constantly amazes me when I hear the amount of female friends who haven’t had recent smear tests.
Given that the test is there to save lives, it seems a small price to pay to put up with some possible discomfort in the procedure. Does a smear test hurt that much?
I know, I know. As a guy, it’s easy for me to say as I don’t have to go through it. The thought of losing someone close to me simply because they haven’t had a recent smear test terrifies me, though.
Fortunately, I have little trouble in blogging about such subjects. As the father of three girls (and a son), I am a constant embarrassment to my kids via the blog. It’s a badge I wear with honour.
I’d rather they get embarrassed at their dad reviewing Durex condoms and be aware of the bigger issue of safe sex than have them making me a very young grandad to someone.
I don’t really have a life lesson to spread when talking about lube, however. I will simply stick to the message that sex should be fun and shouldn’t be a topic that is shied away from.
The history of smear tests
There are many things that women should know about smear tests in order to be healthy and safe.
Smear tests were invented by Dr. Georges Papanicolaou in the 1940s, who scraped cells from the cervix to study them under a microscope.
This enabled women to be screened for precancerous changes taking place within their body for the first time in history.
Does a smear test hurt?
I recently asked this question of a friend. The answer was simple: While smear tests are not comfortable, cancer is much worse.
Cervical cancer is different from other types of cancer in that it does not develop spontaneously. There are specific and detectable changes that occur, which can be halted with regular checkups.
This is why smear tests are so important.
The earlier in the stages of cancer that the cells are examined, the more easily they can be destroyed.
So, despite the fact that cervical cancer is still a widespread phenomenon, getting the smear test is much safer than not.
How Does The Cervical Screening Test Work?
The test functions in much the same way as they were discovered: by scraping cells off the cervix for examination. This allows for many areas of possible fault, though.
The representative sample of cells for the process should be taken from the vaginal surface of the cervix as well as from the glandular region near the womb so that changes can be easily detected, which is an incredibly important part of the test.
After the cells have been extracted, they must be preserved on a microscope slide without hesitation.
This slide then makes its way to the lab to be analysed by experts, which are typically two highly trained technicians.
The entire process should not take more than three months before you receive a response.
What Should You Know About The Smear Test?
Generally, the horrible disease of cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus.
Therefore, people who have been sexually active and are in between the ages of 18 and 70 should have a regular smear test performed every two years.
The bad news - and this is something that I think needs to change - is that in the UK it’s hard to get a smear test done before the age of 25 or after the age of 64.
The reasons for this vary on where you read up on the subject, with some suggestion that it is because of the relatively low risk for those under 25.
Cervical screening tests cannot determine whether or not the individual has an STD, and occasionally are accompanied by other types of tests, like a colposcopy, to verify their results.
Many women are concerned about the potential discomfort, consistently inquiring “Does a smear test hurt?”
The good news is that the answer to that question is usually no and that at worst, the procedure is merely uncomfortable.
As a friend of mine put it so elequently:
“Well you have to sit there with your legs akimbo allowing some poor nurse to shove what can only be described as the opposite of a clamp up your vag.
But in all honesty, she couldn’t care less what your vagina looks like, and I doubt she’ll remember your face!”
So if you haven’t had your smear test recently, get one booked now. It could save your life.