Will it hurt?

Jan 29, 2024

Will it hurt?

Smear tests are often uncomfortable and for some people the test can be painful. This could be due to a number of factors, such as not enough lubrication being used, a speculum (medical tool used during a smear test) that is too big, anxiety, or having a tilted womb or vaginal dryness, a common menopausal or postmenopausal symptom.

This is understandably scary, especially given that anxiety has been named as a factor which may increase pain. You may be feeling anxious for a number of reasons; you may have had a previous bad experience, or you may be worried about the results of the test. We would encourage you to share your worries with your healthcare professional. They may then be able to suggest some things that may help, such as using a smaller speculum, extra lubrication or a position which may help reduce pain. And remind yourself that you are in control. You can ask the healthcare professional to pause or stop the test at any time, for any reason.

You may also find it helpful to try an anxiety-reducing strategy during the smear test itself, such as 54321, a simple and easy technique that helps to distract you from your worries. Take several deep and slow breaths before naming:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can feel with your hands
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 nice things you can smell
  • 1 thing you are going to do later today for you

It is embarrassing!

It is very common to feel embarrassed about having a smear test, especially if you have not had one before. However, you may find it somewhat reassuring to remind yourself that smear tests will be a very normal and routine part of their job for the healthcare professional doing your test.

You will be provided with a sheet for modesty, but you may find it reassuring to wear clothing that helps you to feel more comfortable, such as a long dress or skirt, or to bring another item of clothing with you. You may also find it reassuring to bring someone you trust with you to your appointment for support, to request a double appointment to allow yourself more time, or to ask for a female healthcare professional to do your test. It may also be useful to focus on your breathing during the test. Perhaps try:

  • Count to 5 as you breathe in
  • Hold your breath for a count of 2
  • Count to 5 as you breathe out

I am scared of the results…

It is normal to worry about your cervical screening results. Being kind to yourself can help you navigate these worries. Allow yourself to sit with the worry, uncertainty is always anxiety-provoking.

Please ask the healthcare professionals at your appointment any questions or concerns you may have, and consider reaching out to The Eve Appeal who are always happy to provide information, answer questions and support in whatever way they can. And remember, a smear test is not a test for cervical cancer, it is an important test for preventing cervical cancer! Plus, it may be helpful to keep in mind that 95% of smear tests come back as ‘normal’.

I don’t need a smear test!

Several people with a cervix assume they do not need a smear test for a number of reasons, such as not having had sex in a long time, having been in a monogamous relationship for many years, or having been through the menopause. However, these are all common myths! Any person with a cervix can be affected by cervical cancer, at any age. If you are invited for a smear test, it is an appropriate test for you.

We hope that having read through these common reasons for people not attending their smear tests, you feel less alone in your worries, more equipped to know what to do to help reduce them, and more empowered to feel able to attend your screening.

If you have any questions or would like any support around cervical screening, you can contact @The Eve Appeal for free on nurse@eveappeal.org.uk or 0808 802 0019.

#CervicalCancerAwarenessMonth #CtheSigns #EarlyCancerDetection

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