If you’ve never had a smear test, the idea of it can seem a bit intimidating. It doesn’t help that everybody’s experience is different and hearing stories which concern you and some which comfort you can make it difficult to decide how you feel about it.
In this blog post, we look at the facts of cervical screenings by answering the most common questions surrounding this short and simple test. This will hopefully help to inform you and give you more of an idea of what to expect when you attend your own screening.
What Is A Cervical Smear Test For?
A smear test, or cervical screening, is a simple test that checks for human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. The test also checks for changes in the cells covering the neck of your womb. These changes could later develop into cervical cancer if not treated.
What Happens During A Smear Test?
Your smear test will take place with a doctor or nurse in a private room. You can ask the doctor or nurse any questions before the test begins.
You will then be asked to take your clothes off your bottom half behind a privacy curtain or screen, then lie on a bed with your knees bent and apart. This allows the doctor to access the cervix easily and with minimal discomfort to you.
A speculum will be gently inserted into your vagina, and a small, soft brush will be used to sample cells from your cervix. This should take less than a minute. The speculum will then be removed and you can re-dress and go about your day.
How Often Do You Have To Have A Smear Test?
Smear tests are not mandatory, but you are recommended to undergo a smear test every three years from the age of 25, and every five years if you’re aged 50 to 64. Women over 65 do not need to have regular screenings unless they have recently had abnormal tests.
Do You Need A Smear Test If You’ve Had The HPV Vaccine?
Yes, you should still have regular smear tests. The HPV vaccine was first introduced in 2008, which means it’s still fairly new and therefore there is not enough data to show that women who have had the vaccine do not need to have a cervical smear test.
Do You Need A Smear Test If You Are A Virgin?
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is passed through intimate skin-to-skin contact. Due to the fact that the purpose of a smear test is to check for an HPV infection, you only need to have a smear test if you have had sexual contact of any kind with another person.
Do You Have To Shave Before A Smear Test?
No. You do not need to remove any body hair before a smear test. It may seem embarrassing due to societal stigma around body hair, but doctors and nurses are used to seeing different types of vaginas and their only aim is to ensure that yours is healthy.
Can You Have A Smear Test During Your Period?
Yes, but your doctor or nurse may not be able to get a clear sample of your cells. This may result in you having to come back for another test a few weeks later, so it is best to book your test to take place in the middle of your cycle.
To find out more about cervical smear tests, abnormal smears and colposcopies, read our guide here. You may also like to read our previous blog post on what a smear test is really like. Prices for all services provided at The Gynae Centre can be found on our Fees page.