As I am now a fully fledged adult woman there seems to be a lot of things that come along with this.
I regularly visit a contraception and sexual health clinic to get my pill and on my last visit the nurse informed me that because I was soon (too soon) approaching being 24 and a half I would be receiving my invite for a cervical cancer screening. (I hate the word smear!)
Firstly, I really appreciated the nurse telling me to expect my letter because from what I knew women don't get it done until they are 25.
So surprise, surprise just over a month later I got my invite. The invite came with a leaflet about the screening and tells you when you can book your appointment from.
I phoned as soon as I got chance and got booked in for just after I got back from my holiday on a day off from work.
I arrived at my doctors and had barely any wait to see the nurse, plus I got there early so actually got seen early.
The nurse told me to take a seat and explained that they now send out letters early to try and encourage girls from my age group to get tested as early as they can and preferably before they turn 25.
She then explained to me what they actually test for.
The first thing they test your sample for is abnormal cells. These cells are not cancer but cells that aren't quite working how they should be and have the potential to turn into cancer.
If you do not have these cells nothing else is done and you just have a test again in 3 years.
If you do have abnormal cells they then test you for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) 90% of cervical cancers are caused by this virus.
Generally if you have abnormal cells and no HPV present your body can sort it out itself and your risk of developing cancer is very low. It is only when you have HPV that they worry more that the cells could become cancerous and they treat the cells. Hence why they are now vaccinating young girls for HPV.
I was actually the first person she had done the screening on that had received the vaccine. I had it done when I was 18 during the first round of vaccinations.
The nurse also emphasised to me that although HPV is carried by men and transmitted sexually it is not classed as an STI.
Next up was the actual procedure. Obviously I had to strip off from the waist down. She had given me some of the sheet of tissue to cover my modesty a bit whilst I laid down.
I was then shown the tools that they use. Yes I will admit the look a bit daunting. She showed me the Speculum. These used to be metal but are now made of clear plastic, this means they are now disposable and not as cold!
This is what they insert into the vagina and open slightly to make the cervix visible.
Apparently they come in different sizes, so don't worry if you think it might be too big for you they can choose another one. They always try the "normal" size first!
Also they do put "jelly" (lube) on it to make it easier.
She then showed me the brush that they take the sample with. This looks like a mini soft plastic paint brush. they just insert it in the middle of the speculum, swivel it around a little and job done.
After this all to be done was the test. She shone a light between my legs, the sheet I had covering my lap made me a lot more comfortable. If you aren't offered that and you feel it will make you feel better don't hesitate to ask. The nurses want you to feel comfortable because they want you to come back the next time.
The part I found the most uncomfortable was the speculum going in, but there was definitely no pain. Just a cold, awkward feeling. The more relaxed you are the less it will bother you.
The only way I can describe the feeling of her collecting the sample is as weird. Its not painful in any way just an odd feeling.
When she was finished she told me that I had bled a little bit but this is common when taking artificial hormones like the pill and depending on when your period is due. The only thing this could affect is if there aren't enough cells collected to test and you may need to have another smear done.
I was told that they aim to get your results to you within 14 days.
I now have my results 16 days later (I'll let them off because there has been a bank holiday.)
My results came back as borderline for abnormal cells but negative for HPV.
This means I do have cells that could turn into cancer but the chance of this happening is so low that there is no reason to treat them and I should just go for my screening as normal in 3 years time.
The nurse told me to be an advocate for girls my age to get screened as we are the worst age group for attending and here I am doing that.
Honestly it is really not awful or in any way a painful or traumatising experience.
Do not care about how your bits look or how hairy you are, the nurses will have literally seen everything and you are not going to be the worst!
I now know that I have these abnormal cells because I went as soon as I could and now these cells can be monitored and hopefully nothing bad will ever come of it. I dread to think what could come of it if I never had been for that test or any future ones.
5 minutes of discomfort is definitely better than losing your life or opportunity to have a child due to cancer.
If you have any questions at all feel free to ask, I will try my best to answer from my own experience.
There is no need to be embarrassed!