It’s just like something out of a wonderful fairy tale.
On her 25th birthday, every female in the United Kingdom is sent a special letter from the National Health Service inviting her to attend a beautiful, magical ball to dance the night away with a harem of really good looking strangers. Only joking. She’s invited to have a brush shoved up her cervix.
Being human is wonderful. But only if you’ve got a penis. If you’ve got a vagina (and all the weird spidery bits attached to it on the inside) then being a human is absolutely horrible for at least four days of every month while your uterus lining makes a clawed, fiery, satanic escape out of your body to make way for a new egg that you also do not care much for.
Not only do we have periods for a significant portion of our lives but we also have to do weird woman things like have our breasts checked and our cervixes swabbed. These things are important and we do them because we want to keep living, but it doesn’t make the experience any less miserable.
I had the second smear test of my life this week and I thought I’d blog about it because of the dichotomy of it being a really horrible experience, but also a potentially life-saving one that you should definitely do, if you have a cervix.
Cervical screenings are a choice. We aren’t rounded up and frogmarched to our GPs by the military, and it’s easy to put them off or forget about them. The idea is that they can help prevent cancer by detecting abnormal cells early. This is exactly what happened to my sister a few years ago. If she hadn’t had a cervical screening she wouldn’t have known about her precancerous cells and she might be dead by now. So it’s worth the few minutes of embarrassment and discomfort, I think.
What actually happens in the screening?
If you’re worried about your cervical screening, good. You should be. Like most things about being a woman, it’s not supposed to be enjoyable.
After being asked some vaguely embarrassing questions about your sex life, you’ll be told to get lower-half-naked, which always feels somehow weirder than being fully naked.
Then you’ll be asked if you’re ‘okay with latex’ – don’t accidentally sound too enthusiastic when you answer this (like I did). An appropriate answer is a curt nod.
Next you have to put your feet together and open your knees so the complete stranger can peer right into the depths of your lady bits.
Next, she lubricates a penis-like object (speculum) and inserts it before OPENING IT UP like some sort of alien torture device.
Finally, she sticks the brush up you (all the way up you, way too far up you) and jiggles it about a bit to scrape some cells for analysis. It feels…not painful, just somehow very wrong. I don’t know what I was doing with my face while this was going on but I know I was doing something, because when it finished I had somehow managed to dislodge both of my contact lenses.
After that, you’re done, free to make your undignified, trouserless exit from the examining table back to the sad, abandoned bundle of jeans and knickers you left on the visitor’s chair behind the curtain.
You’ll leave feeling a bit like a prostitute, but also a bit smug that you did it. You got a cervical screening, and now all you have to do is spend the next 6 weeks hoping you don’t have cancer. To summarise, it’s not the nicest ten minutes of your life, but it could be the most important – so go have one! Yay!