Health Check: Here's Everything You Need To Know About Getting A Smear Test
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is just around the corner and we've teamed up with the Marie Keating Foundation to help raise awareness of the importance of smear tests.
Smear tests are quick and painless. They’re also free for women aged 25 to 60. They prevent up to 80 per cent of cervical cancers and they only need to be done every three to five years - make them part of your health routine!
The vast majority of women who have smear tests will have normal results, but some of us might know someone who has had an irregular result.
Here, Gill, aged 32 from Dublin, tells us about her experience. (Spoiler: everything turns our OK!)
"At my smear test appointment, my GP asked me a couple of standard questions, like if I had any unusual bleeding recently, and when I had last had a period. She then gave me my smear test. Admittedly, it was a bit awkward, but I knew it had to be done for peace of mind. It was over very quickly and I felt grand once it was over.
A week later I got a call from the GP to say that I had abnormal results from the smear. The GP was lovely and reassured me there was absolutely nothing to worry about and that this was really common. She named a few hospitals, I picked one that was near to my work and the GP told me that I would get a letter from them within two weeks.
Like clockwork, I got a letter from the CervicalCheck Unit of the hospital inviting me in for an appointment to investigate the abnormal results of my smear.
I went in for my appointment and was a bit nervous, but I was accompanied by a lovely nurse who explained the whole thing. She answered all my questions and made me feel at ease.
This procedure was a bit more intense than the last. They applied an anaesthetic by injection and they looked at the area with a camera and dye. They could identify that I had an area of precancerous cells but it was very small.
The doctor was very reassuring, saying that they would just take another small sample of my cervix to test to see if I needed to have the LEITZ procedure done at a later stage. A LEITZ procedure removes all the abnormal cells from the cervix using a wire loop with an electric current. The doctor said I would get another letter with the results. The appointment only took about 20 minutes.
About two weeks later, I got the letter with the results, and they told me that I would need to come back to have the LEITZ procedure. I was disappointed when I got this news because I presumed the worst, but then I started being positive and was glad that they said it was a small area and a precautionary treatment.
The LEITZ treatment sounds awful but actually it didn’t feel much difference from the last procedure at all. They give you an anesthetic and an adrenalin injection before they start. This was the only uncomfortable part of it but it was over quickly. After that, you can’t feel anything! They told me about the follow-up treatment and gave me a leaflet with all the FAQs you could think of. They also gave me a phone number in case I had any other questions.
Now, everything is fine and I just need to go for another smear test in February to make sure it all still looks healthy
The whole process from start to finish was so easy. I didn’t have to pay for anything and I was able to call a nurse about a week after to ask her a couple of questions and she was very understanding."
So if you're aged 25 to 60, go ahead and book your appointment. And if you're embarrassed, just remember that the doctor has seen it all before!
CervicalCheck will send you a letter when you are due a smear and you can also go on CervicalCheck.ie to check the date yourself.
For more information, click here.