Cervical screening 

Introduction 

Cervical cancer

Andy Nordin, a gynaecological oncologist, explains the symptoms of cervical cancer, who’s most at risk and the treatment options.

Media last reviewed: 21/02/2013

Next review due: 21/02/2015

NHS cancer screening

There are some types of cancers you can get free routine screening for

A cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb from the vagina.

Detecting and removing abnormal cervical cells can prevent cervical cancer.

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer; it is a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. Most women's test results show that everything is normal, but for around 1 in 20 women the test will show some abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

Most of these changes will not lead to cervical cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. However, in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so that they cannot become cancerous.

About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, which amounts to 2% of all cancers diagnosed in women.

It's possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, although the condition mainly affects sexually active women between the ages of 30 and 45. The condition is very rare in women under 25.

The cervical screening programme

The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition. Since the screening programme was introduced in the 1980s, the number of cervical cancer cases has decreased by about 7% each year.

All women aged between 25 and 64 are invited for cervical screening. Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited for testing every three years, and women aged between 50 and 64 are invited every five years.

Being screened regularly means that any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing.

It is estimated that early detection and treatment can prevent up to 75% of cervical cancers.

Read about why cervical screening is recommended and when cervical screening is recommended.

The cervical screening test

The cervical screening test usually takes around five minutes to carry out. An instrument called a speculum will be gently inserted into your vagina to hold the walls of your vagina open so that your cervix is visible. A small soft brush will be used to take some cells from the surface of your cervix.

The sample of cervical cells will then be sent to a laboratory and examined under a microscope to see whether there are any abnormal cells.

Some women may find the procedure a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing, but for most women it is not painful.

If the test picks up abnormalities in the cells in your cervix, it may be recommended that you have treatment to remove them, or further tests in a few months to see if they return to normal on their own.

Read about what happens during cervical screening and treating abnormal cells in the cervix.

Human papilloma virus testing

Changes in the cells of the cervix are often caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are more than 100 different types of HPV. Some types are high risk and some types are low risk. HPV-16 and HPV-18 are considered to be high risk for cervical cancer.

After successful trials, HPV testing has been incorporated into the NHS Cervical Screening Programme.

If a sample taken during for cervical screening test shows low-grade or borderline cell abnormalities, the sample should automatically be tested for HPV. If HPV is found in your sample, you should be referred for a colposcopy for further investigation and, if necessary, treatment. If no HPV is found, then you will carry on being routinely screened as normal.

If your sample shows more significant cell changes you will be referred for colposcopy without HPV testing.

In some areas, a test for HPV will be carried out as the first test on the screening sample. In these cases, the sample will only be checked for abnormal cells if HPV is found. If HPV isn’t found, you will be offered a screening test again in three to five years time (depending on your age).

Read about the results of cervical screening tests.

Page last reviewed: 30/09/2013

Next review due: 30/09/2015

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Comments

The 81 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ALIGRUBS said on 26 September 2014

I have had several smear tests in my life and have found most nurses are badly trained leaving many women traumatised with very painful smear tests which was invented by a male, when will we be offered a more civilised way to detect the viruses that can lead to cervical cancer, there are many possibilities being studied ad it will only be the women that can bring about change.

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charlen246 said on 25 September 2014

I have had many smear tests over the years and most were dreadful, the last one I had the nurse behaved in sadistic cruel way opening my cervix then leaving me with the speculum still inserted whilst I screamed
my screams were ignored but plenty of smirking people when I left the surgery. i will never ever have another smear tests

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chumpuswumpus said on 05 September 2014

The last time I had a smear test, the "nurse" came at me with a speculum that I can only describe as an instrument of torture, it was cold and too big for me. I have a high pain threshold but I cried out in pain. The lady doctor of that practice who was passing heard and came into the room. She said to the "nurse" get the paediatric speculum.
I had the smear test but I cried on the way home. That nurse was ignorant and brutal. I vowed I would never have another smear test. I have been a midwife myself and would never approach a patient as she did. I think she thought I had an open chasm that would accept anything. I have noted that particular surgery has a bad rating, like worst of any. The "nurse" reacted as though she had never had a patient with a small vagina I.E. one that has not been stretched with childbirth or frequent sex. I felt insulted as well as brutalised.

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MaebyShirley said on 11 August 2014

I just wanted to comment on the video on this page.

I'm on this page because I've been putting off having the screening (partly due to conflicting advice about whether I need one as someone who is sexually active but hasn't had penetrative sex, partly because of considerable anxiety about the procedure). I watched the video hoping it would give me a better idea of what is involved and help to put my mind at rest.

The man talking is fine but he only really talks about what the test is for, not what it actually involves or feels like. But the way this is interspersed with the woman preparing to perform the test was like something out of a horror movie for me! Seriously! I would have liked to see some clips of the woman explaining what she is going to do in an approachable manner, rather than silently pulling on the latex gloves and brandishing a speculum!

I appreciate all the reassuring comments about how it's not so bad. I know rationally that I need to have the test. But if the NHS want to encourage us to have the test, the video really should be rethought. For those of us who are already anxious it really does nothing to help calm the nerves.

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zoey800 said on 08 August 2014

The test takes about 5 minutes, its over and done with so quick, please don't put this off. I wore a skirt that I could pull up to make me feel less naked. The nurse was great and I worried so much over this for nothing.

I only just turned 25 a few months back so thought my letter would come back with a normal result, however I got a high reading, immediate panic.

Had my appointment at the hospital three weeks later, no cancer but had some leep treatment as a precaution, pretty painless, lets hope recovery time stays that way.

Its all about prevention, book that screening.

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lucyp2013 said on 23 July 2014

Hi all im 21 and have been to see the doctor again today as i have got discharge every day and each time my partner and i have sex its painful. I told the doctor about my endometriosis and inflammed cervix plus family history of cervical cancer and history of hysterectomys at early ages etc. He decided to book me in for a smear test i didnt think you could have them if you were under 25. So now am worried about next steps and what it might be causing me this pain and discomfort. Any advice at all is welcome.

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han25 said on 09 July 2014

I went for my first nhs requested smear yesterday and my third overall. I had no pain or discomfort at all.
My nurse made me feel very relaxed and at ease, it was all done within 5 minutes.

Please don't put them off, how can a woman not spare say 20 minutes every three years?? It is not embarrassing, they do it for a reason and it could save your life!

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SJ_Jones said on 30 June 2014

I'm 33 years old now. In January 2013 I had my smear test. It was my 4th test, and I was almost 2 years late for it.

It came back with mild abnormalities (CIN 1), so I was scheduled back in for another smear 6 months later.

That came back with moderate abnormalities (CIN 2) so I was scheduled in for a colposcopy a few weeks later.

I had the colposcopy, the doctor was concerned with what he saw so he took a biopsy. That came back as high (CIN 3) and I was scheduled in for a loop diathermy in late November 2013. I opted to have it under general anaesthetic.

As far as they were concerned it was a success. I was scheduled for another colposcopy and smear 6 months later. They were concerned as it didn't look quite right so they took another biopsy and ran tests for HPV (that test only came in as standard in Feb 14).

I've had the results today - I have no abnormalities currently, but high-risk HPV was detected. So I have to have another colposcopy and smear in 6 months. I'm fed up. I don't really understand what this means for me in the future - will this be the way for the rest of my life, invasive check-ups every 6 months?

I was assaulted as a young teenager and subsequently suffered from vaginismus, which I got over after about 7 years and a lot of patience. But I still have some issues. Smear tests are bad enough for me (not painful, although uncomfortable as I get so tense) - I've yet to have one without crying. My sister's come with me for the colposcopies so far, but I can't ask her to do that every 6 months (we don't live close). When does this end???

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JustSmile said on 05 June 2014

I had my first smear test today ,have to admit i found it slightly painful and after using three different speculums the nurse gave up as i was to tense at that time and she was unable to get a clear view of the cervix .
Ive never been sexually active so i was told i could come back for a smear when I'm active or in a couple of months time .....slightly unsure as to when.
However despite this experience I've been told most people don't feel pain at all and would still say definitely go for the test when called as nothing is more important than your health

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Young87 said on 30 April 2014

I had my first smear done over two weeks ago and I'm 27 (naughty me left it when i got a reminder through at 25). I was expecting it to be uncomfortable, I have to admit it really hurt for me, but I have had a baby 4 months ago and had 2nd degree tear, so i think things aren't quite right down there and still healing. The one thing I'm worried about is that i have not stopped bleeding since and never did before as was on the mini pill? Smear has already come back normal but not sure whether to go back to docs or to leave it? Anyone else had similar problems?

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Queenie2273 said on 24 April 2014

The smear test is undoubtedly a very good thing to have done and I would recommend anyone to go. I am particularly squeamish and always go at the stated times and the discomfort is minimal. I have always been impressed with this service that was until recently. 6 years ago and I had abnormal cells and was referred to hospital for a colposcopy and ended up having most of my cervix removed and needed smears once a year for 10 years. After 6 clear smears my doctors refused to give me another as they said the rules had changed and I was no longer a risk?? I was told to have one every year for 10 years not 6. In January they gave in and carried out a smear and the results were that I have abnormal cells again but as I do not have the HPV virus they wont see me for 3 years. Given my history I think this is madness. I am a single mother and really would like to live to bring up my son. Since my results in January I have lost a stone and a half and am constantly stressed. I went to the doctors again this morning to ask for another smear in 2 months time to ascertain if the abnormal cells have gone and was point blank refused. This is a joke and even if it amounted to anything no one would be bothered that it was missed and was practically begging for a smear. So if you are called for one, please don't ignore it is better to be safe than sorry but don't expect the longer term smears you were told you were going to have.

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pandapop said on 10 April 2014

Hello. I just wanted to say that I had my first smear test today after putting it off for a long time (I'm 32), and it really wasn't that bad! I often get really anxious about things and worked myself up into a complete state about it. I was in tears when I arrived at the surgery and but the nurse was very calm and nice about it and put me at ease. The process lasted seconds and didn't hurt at all, making me wonder why I left it so long. I was surprised how quick it was and how little I felt. My legs were shaking, which I was embarrassed about, but it was all OK. I thought sharing this might help others to feel at ease, because I was so, so scared about it and it really was OK.

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Sophiechloe said on 26 March 2014

User 857778 I had exactly the same problems as you, bleeding, spotting, pain, pain during sex etc and because I have anxiety I was sick with worry and drove myself crazy thinking I was dying from cervical cancer I even tried to feel my own cervix and felt lumps after numerous trips to the doctor just to be tested for thrush every time! I was only 20 so I couldn't have a smear even though I asked to have one. I couldn't stop thinking that I had cervical cancer so went to the doctor and told him my concerns and he again wanted to do a test got thrush, I was sick of it and demanded I saw a gynaecologist! Which is what happened a few weeks later! After visiting the gyno she did find lumps and did a biopsy of the lumps and found changes in the cells of the biopsy so was offered a smear which was processed (because I know even if you go for a smear all smear tests that go to the lab get declined to test if the patient is under 25, bizarre I know) and they found abnormal cells so the lumps were corterised/frozen off and I was offered a smear every three months until the cells were 'normal' which has totally put my mind at rest :) so it is possible to have a smear under the age of 25 (I was 20 at the time) xx

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User857778 said on 22 March 2014

I'm wondering if anyone can help me as I'm going out of my mind with worry!
Basically I have been having problems with irregular bleeding and pain for some time (12months or so) I have seen so many GPs and have ultrasounds and pelvic examinations... All fine and ok!
However I'm only 22 (almost 23) and have time and time again been refused a smear test! I'm out of my mind with worry and now I'm considering having it done privately! My only worry is at my age won't this result come back abnormal anyway? Also will a private clinic process this sample if I'm paying for it? I can't think about anything else. Sorry to ramble on everyone.

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Daisy111 said on 10 March 2014

I had my smear test done today and after putting it off for 3 years due to being nervous and concious about that area, i( even though i have been through labour) it really was not that bad, it only took a few moments and didnt hurt, although it feels like i have weak period pains now though :-\ but glad i have had it done as you never know and better to be safe than sorry.

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Anne_Noni_Moose said on 26 February 2014

Just been for my first smear today. I think the run up to it was far worse than the actual thing. It's not exactly pleasant but certainly the thought of it was worse than the test itself.

It didn't hurt or really feel that uncomfortable and in the end, the thing that I most conscious of wasn't having my foof on show for the world but the fact that my right leg wouldn't stop shaking during the whole thing! But the nurse was lovely and the whole thing was done in seconds.

It set off some really mild cramps and I can feel little bit of an achey pain where she took the sample but I am due on in the next couple of days so probably a little bit more sensitive than I would have been a week or so earlier.

Obviously everyone's experiences are different but please don't let the thought of it put you off as it almost did me - the actual thing isn't as bad or as embarrassing as you think it's going to be.

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fa_1807 said on 17 February 2014

Just wanted to share my experience as others of my first test today. I had been working myself up about it for weeks but it really wasn't as bad as I thought!

The nurse had trouble finding my cervix and had to change the speculum and it was uncomfortable but not painful. I wouldn't say I would rush back but certainly wasn't even as embarrassing as I thought it was going to be and that's coming from someone that's never had an intimate exam like that before.

Don't put it off!

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Miss Green eyes said on 05 February 2014

Bongo75. This is the reason why even though I'm fed up with smears biopsies and treatment I will still continue to go to my appointments! I might hate them but I would hate having cancer much much much! More!

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anxious lady said on 04 February 2014

I was invited for a screen, finally got the courage and booked up, when I arrived two weeks later the Cripps Health centre in Nottingham would not let me do it because I had changed address (even though they told me it was fine when I booked up on the phone and I was still only a short distance away). The NHS needs to get it's act together, no wonder the number of females being screened is getting lower over time. Even when we try you stop us.

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C03 said on 21 January 2014

I had my first smear test today and wanted to write a message as I have looked at this website a lot for reassurance in the last couple of weeks. I was absolutely dreading today and was very nervous, having never had one before, not knowing what to expect and reading a lot about it being painful/uncomfortable/embarrassing. I found it to be none of those things. It didn't hurt whatsoever and it wasn't even that uncomfortable either. I thought it might be embarrassing as I've never had an intimate examination before but it was fine (and there was a second nurse in the room on training too!).

I would like to say to anyone reading this who is nervous about their first smear test - please don't be as nervous as I was. There is absolutely nothing to worry about and it's over in minutes. I couldn't believe how worked up I had got over it!

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Hjs1990 said on 20 January 2014

I'm 23 years old and have never had a smear done (as the age for screening starts at 25). I was just wondering if when you are tested for an STI and you get a cervical swab do they also check for cervical cancer or only for the STIs? It's just something I'm curious about and forgot to ask at the time. Cervical cancer is something that concerns me as I know it affects younger women. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

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Bongo75 said on 15 January 2014

I ignored my smear tests invites for about 6/7 years, I ended up with stage 3 cervical cancer. I had to have chemo and radiotherapy! All because I didn't want the embarrassment of a 5 minute appointment.

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Marier62 said on 09 December 2013

Hi, im 24 and ive recently moved so i am not with a go at the moment and ive lost my passport so i cant sign up yet.., but previously i've been asking for a smear test for a year now and no one seems to understand that i have worries as i have possible symptoms.
Family planning refused to do one aswell..
I have lower abdominal pains and shooting pains down my leg, the pain increases during sex, nd is a aching constant pain at most time, ive been given antibiotics which obviously haven't worked,
Can someone help me please? One worry is that, i really want to have babies later on and i hope it isn't stop that. Because i am being refused tests... . :(

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beautiful_disaster said on 04 December 2013

I can't stress enough the importance of attending your smear test appointment. I'm only 24.. So not even told enough to be invited for a smear test and in 2010, when I was 20 I had to have treatment for pre cancerous cells. I had abnormal bleeding, had numerous smears that came back normal before a colposcopy and biopsy revealed I needed treatment. Please don't think you are too young or you might be fine because you are putting your health at risk. I now have to have smears every year and I still get nervous, it's in my nature. I had a smear test on Monday after receiving a letter back in January telling me I was due one. I was so stupid to put off booking an app for nearly a year especially after my previous problems. I went to it and now I don't know why I even backed out of it so long. A couple of minutes of minimal discomfort for the reassurance that you are cancer free. Don't ever put it off. Or it could end up being too late!

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lcc1844 said on 02 December 2013

I recently had my first smear test and I had put it off for a few months. I sort of knew the nurse at my surgery so really didn't want her to see so much of me! But I bit the bullet and made an appointment and it was actually ok. There was one point when she was talking to me that I felt like crying but she was so nice. The test was uncomfortable and she used a small speculum but had to swap it for a larger one because she couldn't see my cervix. But it was dealt with easily and quickly and I felt so relieved afterwards. The actually cell scraping part does not hurt at all and I am so glad I just went and got it done. Fingers crossed my results will be ok! Good luck to everyone else, I hope no one has a bad experience because now I'm feeling quite proud of myself for going.

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lollie35 said on 23 November 2013

Had my first smear this month and just got results back- all normal. It wasnt my first attempt as the first attempt was really poorly handled by the nurse but this time all was ok. I suppose there is a reluctance due to the nature of the test but just relax- and all will go well.
Had a bit a abdo pain afterwards and from reading more info on the subject-this is also normal.
Don't be scared!!

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Littlelady20 said on 22 November 2013

I decided to leave a comment here today about a cervical smear test because I was on here yesterday looking for reassurance myself. I am 26 and this was my first smear test. Up until now I had about 4 invites previously in the past 3 yrs and I don't mind admitting I physically couldn't bring myself to having any kind of exam down there.
It ended up I had my daughter 2 yrs ago and my first exam down there was when I was in labour and had a terrible nurse who I now know was very bad at her job.
Today I had my daughter in my head the whole way through, I just couldn't take a chance on something so important and worse case scenario could be easily prevented.
My exam today was absolutely fine. My nurse was lovely. She used a plastic speculum and changed from regular size to smaller size to make me more comfortable. When it goes in initially it's slightly (very slightly) uncomfortable and after that it was a breeze. 3 deep breathes and the sample was taken. I really had nothing to worry about and after the first vaginal exam I was literally petrified. I'm hoping that this will reassure any one else afraid of getting one done. I will definitely not delay at my next invite.

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Charlotte1707 said on 03 October 2013

At the age of 19. I've already had two smear tests each coming back with boarder line results.
I can honestly say I'd rather go through the discomfort of a smear than find out anything worse later down the line, and at such a young age it is easy to think that I, or anyone else my age would be clear from cervical cancer or abnormalities until kid twenties.

I have been very unfortunate to have different issues with pelvis, cervix and abdomen and have had a colposcopy, laparoscopy and am on constant medication, but I am always sure to get them checked out and can only hope other girls my age would do the same because without going to the doctors early on my case would be much worse!

I have got my 3rd smear next week and can only hope it is a positive result it's not nice but worth it and finding out things early is much easier I hope girls my age can read this and think about going to the doctors if they are worried about anything because even if it turns out to be nothing it's better to be safe than sorry and there's nothing to be embarrassed about!

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OzzyFelix said on 23 September 2013

I went for my smear today. I had an abnormal result a year and a bit ago, so I make sure I go when ever requested. I no longer find them embarrassing, I've had 2 children, so I'm perfectly used to the medical profession, taking a peek down there. Seriously though, I can't stress the importance of these tests. It takes 2 minutes of your time and can save your life. Luckily my abnormal result, was a little blip and, touch wood, everything is fine down there. Oh and it doesn't hurt one bit.

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Ck83 said on 16 September 2013

Hi ladies,
Smear tests are slightly embarrassing but really as women this is the least of our worries, how can you ever hope to have a baby if you cant show 1 nurse your vagina for 3 minutes?
Tip: mid length skirt then you only have to take off your underwear & it feels a bit more dignified.

I went for my 3rd smear today at only 30, I had an abnormal smear at 26 - it took me a year to come to terms with the above! I had borderline abnormalities & was brought back for a 2nd smear a few months later. The point being if there was an error in the first test it would show up/ or show further changes. It had got worse & I had to have a colposcopy :( - further embarrassment very little pain.
Can i emphasise I had no HPV, no STD history & only 2 sexual partners only one of which I had not used condoms with (my husband). I was only 26. All you need to be at risk of any cancer is to live, though there are obviously things that increase your risk.

There is a reason the other women in your life tell u to go, because for cancers like this early identification is vital if you want to stay fertile/ live! Go!

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mrsflanagan said on 13 September 2013

I went for my first ever smear test today. I read the comments here in the days leading up to it because I was nervous so thought I would add my experience to help others.

I think I was lucky because the nurse (if that's how you refer to the lady?) was soo lovely, really patient, gentle and approachable. This made all the difference in the world because the second most important thing is to *relax*. It will make it much more comfortable. My test wasn't exactly something I would do for fun but it didn't hurt and the nurse respected my privacy and was as discreet as possible in the circumstances!

She told me I would get my results within 2 weeks.

Two minutes of embarrassment for peace of mind or early intervention if needed is a fair trade to me. I would have thought twice about going but I went because I have two children and booked it as soon as I got my invitation so I wouldn't chicken out. I'm glad I went.

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maylee123 said on 11 September 2013

I would like to say how important it is to go for a smear test. I have had 3. I am 32 years old. I had symptoms of lower back pain and like period pain in my lower abdomen. went to GP and had smear. This showed up abnormalities. I was given an appointment in less than ten day to go for a colposcopy.
I have been told I have the HPV virus. I'm in the high risk category and will have to have annual smears for the next 10 years. Abnormal cells were also removed for biopsy and am waiting for results to see if they are cancerous. Yes some smears can be painful but better that than the alternative. This test is so important.

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SqueakyBeans said on 01 September 2013

I'm 25 and I went for my first test a few days ago after putting it off for a few months. I'd been told "oh it's so awful" by so many people, including my own mother so of course, I was terrified!

For anyone who's worried, don't be. It really is totally fine! I was in the nurses office for 5 mins and the test itself was over in about 30 seconds. It was so "okay" in fact that I actually said to the nurse when she'd finished - "is that it?"

She agreed that she'd always found them perfectly bearable. It was only ever so slightly uncomfortable, that's all. No pain, whatsoever. Take a deep breath and go for it. You will be fine :-)

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MissKMH said on 28 August 2013

I am nearly 25 and have just had my first smear test. After working myself up reading all kinds and hearing the horror stories I just wanted to leave a comment on here to put peoples minds at rest. It was perfectly bearable! If nothing else you can rest assured it is quick. I would urge anyone to go. This is coming from someone who avoids any kind of medical examination as much as possible! I even dislike blood pressure tests! But if it helps to avoid anything worse it has to be worth it.

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ElenUK said on 23 August 2013

I've created an account to tell you about my first smear test, which I had two days ago.

First of all, ignore the video on the top of the page. The metal scepulum has not been used for years, that's what the lovely nurse told me! They use a plastic one.

I wore a skirt as I've read it in some comments so I didn't have to take my skirt off. It took 2 minutes, maybe less.

No pain at all, only a bit discomfort. It was very easy.

The nurse was very friendly and she did tell me that she could stop at any time I felt pain.

I would advise everyone to go ahead and have one. I am scared of any type of doctors and tests and I managed to go through with it, that means it wasn't that bad!

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TMcGee said on 20 August 2013

I just made an account on here purely so I could comment on this and put a few minds at ease.
I just went for my first smear test after putting it off for several years due to general fear/embarrassment and definitely not wanting a stranger near my private parts! I had a routine check up with my local nurse and she mentioned I hadn't had my test and would I like one now or would I like to go away and think about it. So I just got it done there and then as I'd rather not have time to mull it over!
I have to say it wasn't even remotely awkward like I thought it would be, you're completely covered so it's not like everything is out in the open and also you only have to put your feet together and spread your knees (I had a horrible image of having to put my legs wide apart) so it's basically a very minimal part of you on show.
It is slightly uncomfortable but nothing unbearable. The nurse was lovely and chatted away to put my mind at ease. I also opted to have an STI screening (better to be safe than sorry!), rather than have two separate screenings so mine lasted a little longer but still probably about 30 seconds in total. I think most folk probably get that option just incase anyway.
I cannot express enough how relieved I am to have it over with so if you have the option of throwing it into a check up appointment rather than mulling it over I'd definitely go down that route! At the end of the day it's got to be better than stressing over "what ifs" if I just left it even longer. The alternative doesn't really bear thinking about so I knew I had to get it done sooner or later.
I really hope this persuades more folk to go and get checked as I cannot even begin to explain just how much I put off/feared getting it done and just how easy/quick and relieving it is to finally get it done! And besides, if your results are fine you don't need to go back for three years :)

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Hjf1234 said on 02 August 2013

Iv just returned home from having my smear, I stay in Scotland where at the age of 17 we are sent put our requests to go for smear testing or if you have a child before this you are sent to have smear tests or are known as sexually active. I went for my first smear at the age of 17 and have had the same nurse every since and I must say they are amazing! They put me at ease as they know I get worked up, having said that I don't even feel it I think it's more the thought. For women who are worried I would say to build up a good relationship with your GP's nursing team and trust them to do their job. I would much rather have a few moments of embarrassment about getting my bits out on my part than the pain it would cause should it be more serious!

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kgizzle said on 01 August 2013

I have to agree with others on this page that, after reading the comments on this page, I was very nervous about my smear test. I expected a fairly horrific experience! I couldn't believe it when the nurse said "all done!" as I did not feel a thing. Of course, you feel the apparatus going in but it is not uncomfortable or painful at all. I felt certain strokes of the swab but again it was not painful, nor uncomfortable. I started to experience some spotting (light bleeding) 2 days after the test but again, no pain or discomfort.

So, if you're going for one (though, I'm sure everyone is different), do not be put off! It is perfectly endurable!

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Daisy62 said on 19 July 2013

When are they ever going to bring the screening age down? Cervical cancer is mainly a young woman's disease, yet screening starts at 25.

My daughters friend has advanced cancer which has been found after her 1st smear, she is just 25. How many more young women is this going to happen to before the NHS lowers the age for tests?

I feel so gutted for this young girl and the worst thing is, it was so avoidable.

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Clairebear87 said on 15 July 2013

I plucked up the courage to go and have a smear test today after arranging a previous appointment and cancelling it because I was scared because of embarassment and worried about the procedure.

An hour before my appointment I read the comments on here and one scared the hell out of me, as someone said they cried all the way home??? I know everyones different but I feel that was a definate over reaction.

I arrived and explained my fears to the nurse who reassured me it wasnt really painful, more uncomfortable and showed me what would be inserted inside me. Considering I thought it was a clamp, I was relieved.

I laid on the bed and she tried to insert the spectrum (the thing she showed me) but it wouldnt go in... typical I thought, but it was not painful. So she changed the size of it, and inserted it and again it was not painful, and not as uncomfortable as i expected. She did the swab of my cervix and it took 5 seconds, which she counted out. Slightly uncomfortable but not as much as I was expecting.

I would like to point out that i do not have any children either. The nurse even said it was a more difficult one as she could not see my cervix at 1st. I definately will not be afraid to go back again.

As for a tip of getting over the embarassment, I just thought when youve seen one youve seen them all.

I have a little bit of belly ache now, but its bareable, just feels like light period pain.

Please please go for it, dont listen to the horror stories, its literally nothing!

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Ladyveeeeeeeee said on 09 July 2013

I'm 25 and just had my first smear. I tried to be as relaxed as possible and the nurse was lovely and reassuring. The initial part where the spectrum goes in is uncomfortable but not painful, however when she opened it to insert the swab it was extremely painful, it did not feel like period pain it was much worse. The pain stopped as soon as the procedure was over but I cried on the way home.
I'm not trying to put anyone off as I think it's important for young women to do this, but after seeing so many people say its pain free I just don't want people to be miss informed as everyone is different. I've not had children and it hurt. It has made me think twice about having another.

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Lou Singer said on 25 May 2013

I am 34 and have never accepted my screening invitation. I am not against screening but I am against incomplete facts which do not allow women the chance to make an informed choice. This page and most screening invitation and literature does not explain the complete figures and statistics for cervical cancer screening. The first fact every women should be told is that there has never been a randomised controlled trial for screening healthy women. The figures are based on estimates and modelling. Secondly, false positive results are barely mentioned, and neither are results which lead to difficult treatments and surgery but will not impact on a women's life if they were never detected. Compare the facts received for Women's cancer screening test to those of men who are given percentages, statistics, false negative and false positive ratios. Women should be encouraged to make informed choices about their health. Information should be easily provided, including this website.

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nimueeblue said on 22 May 2013

I have just had my test and the test itself was fine (believe me, embarrassment wise, after childbirth, this is a doddle!) - however i do feel that i need to add a comment about timescales. Like a few of the comments on here, I had to wait nearly 4 weeks for my initial appointment with the nurse and told the results would be within 14 days (the US it takes 3-5 days). If i do happen to be called back, i know again from previous experience that I can be waiting up to another 3-4 weeks for another appointment with the GP or nurse. The NHS is great for emergencies, but the length of time we have to wait for appointments and results really does cause an awful lot of stress and anxiety. Part of me would rather not go so that i don't spent weeks and weeks sitting aound worrying about what the results might be, or if i've been called back worry myself sick that it is something far more serious. I appreciate that the NHS is under a lot of pressure, but surely these situations could be handled in a more sensitive way?

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Marie_Hampshire said on 14 May 2013

I felt compelled to leave a comment as I was so shocked by the amount of people worried about smear tests and thinking of not going for one.

Please please gather up the courage to go - take your mum or a friend if it makes you feel better, but don't miss it on the basis of fear or embarrasment.

I'm sure you are all right that some nurses are more gentle than others but if you are worried about the pain just tell them in advance - they are not evil people out to cause you pain! I speak from experience as I have now had to have about 10 swabs and 2 smear tests and counting to try to find out what is wrong with me!

One thing is for sure - it will not kill you. Whereas cervical cancer may well reduce your lifespan and your ability to have children.

Take a deep breath, make the appointment and get it over with asap girls!

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KatieBob said on 10 May 2013

Hi girls I thought I'd leave my comment because it might be useful for somepeople. I have just been for my first smear test and I read all the comments. I researched a lot its quite a frightful thing to think about. I went on the day and I was so nervous I sat on the bed and the nurse gives you a paper sheet and goes away telling you to remove your undergarments. She comes back in and I closed my eyes and she talked to me - it was over literally in 2 seconds. You can feel the speculum going in but it didn't hurt you were just aware of it. You don't really feel anything. I will defo be getting all my check ups 2 seconds of embarrassment is well worth it. Haven't had my results yet but I'm sure they will be fine. Its defiantly worth doing!!! Bite the bullet girls and go for it .

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Rebekahjadex said on 26 April 2013

Unlike many other people, I've only put it off for a few weeks and today was my first smear test.

The nurse was lovely, reassuring and really chatty which made me feel much more comfortable. She used a plastic (not metal) speculum and mentioned that a few people compare it to period pain when the sample is being taken. But to be honest I could barely feel it and wasn't very uncomfortable either.

I think people read some comments on here and get put off just because of a few bad experiences.

I'd advise everyone to go as it could prevent cervical cancer in the future

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fiona86 said on 28 January 2013

I had been putting off my first ever smear test for over 18 months. I was so scared of the procedure and the thought of anyone seeing me completely naked that I decided it wasn't worth it. As time went on, I got more and more scared every time I went to get my pill that they would harass me to get one done. Eventually the guilt and worry got to me enough that I booked an appointment.

I chose to go to my Family Planning Clinic because it felt more anonymous than my Doctor and this somehow made it easier for me. I booked an appointment for two weeks time but after a few sleepless nights of worrying brought it forward to get it over with.

I got to the clinic first thing on the morning, filled in a new patient form and was seen straight away. The Nurse was absolutely lovely and took the time to speak with me, explaining the procedure and showing me all the equipment which would be used. She made it clear I was in control and she would stop at any point.

I was asked to undress from the waist down and lie on the bed, I was given a little sheet to put over me, The Nurse then said she would start by using the smallest speculum on me (even though I was tall). Luckily she was able to clearly see my cervix with this. When she inserted the speculum I can honestly say I felt no pain. Even when she opened it up there was still no discomfort and the little plastic brush she used to scrape my cervix was barely noticeable. The whole thing was over in about a minute and a half. The Nurse was brilliant the whole way through.

The worst part was waiting for my results as I had begun to Google cervical cancer and scared myself silly. I was absolutely convinced something would be wrong and after 7 days I rang my GP who told me the results were back all clear - the letter came on the 8th day confirming my results were normal.

It feels like such a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and when I am next due for a test I certainly won't delay.

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NickyLou said on 25 January 2013

Well I had my first screening when I was 25 and I thought I'd be sent a reminder for my 2nd screening which would have been November. I wasn't and I forgot. It was until I came across my original letter it prompted me to call my GP surgery to book in to see the Nurse only to be told I had to wait 3 weeks to see a nurse. Woman are told they must take screening seriously but how are we meant to when not only did I not receive a reminder but I will be 3 months passed the due date of having it!

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PixterCherla said on 25 January 2013

I made an appointment after receiving my invitation letter. It was brief and did not explain the procedure in detail or the benefits and disadvantages and so I wanted to discuss this with the nurse.

She was very patient and confirmed that the test and screening does not prevent all cancers. It does reduce risk but can be unpleasant for some women.

I have taken a few days to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the screening programme and decided, on balance, I will not undergo the procedure. I hope my decision is respected.

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User738638 said on 15 January 2013

I had my First smear and got my resuts back today by post. It took me 10 months to go get this done as i was working myself in to such a state. Recently i have been having unusual symptoms between periods and after sex so this has forced me to go. I was realy nervous so a good friend came with me and chatted away in the waiting room until i went in. The nurse was lovely and answered all the questions I had. I didnt see what she used as i was laid down and to be quite honest wasnt that bothered just wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. I could actually kick myself now at how easy it was, there really is nothing to it.The trick is to relax which is easier said then done but really is. Once the spectrum is in then it really is a couple of seconds and i couldnt feel a thing. Luckly i got my results back today and they are all normal, but i wouldnt hesitate now in having it done again. Please Please girls dont put it off!! Also for the silly comments about having one sexual partner so dont need it doing further down the page are very silly. 10 mins of been a little uncomfortable or having to go through all kinds of treatments and run the risks of never having children i know which I would choose.

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LilicOranges said on 11 January 2013

The appointment didn’t take long.
When I entered the room, the nurse was smiley & sitting at her desk & offered me to sit at the patient’s chair by it. Before any of the test itself, she explained clearly what the test was for & step-by-step what she would have to do. Also she explained with the swab which is used to collect cells that it is not much at all. She showed me with an example of a swab that it was soft & offered if I’d even like to brush it on my hand. I already knew about the instruments used & procedure, but I didn’t realise how really ‘nothing-ness’ the swab is against skin.
During this time, & the procedure of the test, she held up very good small talk; what I was studying, if I was enjoying it, winter break. I held up with the small talk, too, and better than I normally do. Having had ‘good’ small chat during Implanon insertion 4 years ago, I was fine with this and it probably made me more relaxed about it all.
Questions? We can start? Fresh sheet of the paper stuff placed on the examination bed as well as a separate generously sized sheet for ‘covering’ myself. Curtain drawn, a chair which I could leave my jeans etc. on, within the curtained area. Said when I was ‘ready,’ & she popped through the curtained area. Again, small talk. She said how she’d had her most recent one a couple of months ago, and these things are best to get done – I agreed – for safety (cervical cancer, etc.). & Fin. She did say, step by step, where she was ‘at’. When it was done, she left me to redress within the curtained off bit. It was a little uncomfortable, but more like when you have a really itchy eyebrow – that unpleasantness and odd sensation.
She said everything looked fine (which can only be good, really).
The way which I have said the nurse to have been, is just in reflection & she did name everything (instruments, etc.), I just haven’t bothered to myself in writing this comment.

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deborah06 said on 29 December 2012

Hi everyone I had cin 3 about 9 months I had a lletz done and thank the lord it came back I didn't have cancer it was just cin 3. I went back 6 months later 4 another check at hospital with also a hpv test thank god they both came back negative I left my smear test 14 years before I decided 2 have a smear test done. I have since learnt my lesson I will attend any smear test I need 2 go 4 as I have 3 beautiful children 2 watch grow up and a good life in front of me now due 2 my ignorance I thought oh I feel nothing is wrong with me because I never had no signs I realize now you don't need any signs at all to know any thing is wrong thank god for these smear tests they truly do save a lot of lives. please any 1 reading this message get your self tested and don't delay life is presious thankyou take care

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donnasykes said on 16 October 2012

I had cyn 3 a few years ago and had LLETZ treatment, after having routine normal 6 monthly and then yearly smear tests, I have now gone onto the 3 year appointments. its been 2 years now since my last one but over the last few months I have started to get spotting in between periods and also after intercourse. I had these same symptoms just before I found out about my previous abnormal cells. I had to see the nurse about my periods and mentioned that I'd like to have a smear test as I am concerned that it has come back, but to my horror she said If i had one then it wouldn't get tested because I am not due for a smear until November 2013!! so what now!!?? I am now worried that I have to wait so long for another smear test!..surely because of my previous history then I should be screened asap!?? I thought you could just have a smear test whenever you want? what should I do?

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Worrier84 said on 10 October 2012

As I lost my mother to cervical cancer 20 years ago I always make sure I have my test on time but am always very worried and apprehensive about receiving the result. I recently had a test and was concerned when I was informed that I had a letter from the NHS waiting at home as it had only been a week since the test.

The test came back normal and the quick time between the test and the result was brilliant. I had been told it would take two weeks to get the result and as it was earlier I was concerned somethng was wrong. It was briliant to receive the result so quickly and I was very impressed with the service I received.

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lisamcee said on 29 September 2012

I'm 20 (Scotlands age of screening) and dad my very first smear yesterday, was a little nervous but knew better to have one and be safe than not, its only a 10 minute visit to the doctors so it can't be that bad!

The nurse was great, very chatty trying to pre occupy me and help me relax(you need to!) keeping me informed in what she was doing.
The plastic spectrum doesn't hurt at all, it's well lubricated, yes its a bit uncomfortable but its hardly going to be pleasant is it? she looked around for a few seconds making sure everything looked okay and then took a few cells with the brush thing.
Done in around a minute!
After she asked me a few relative questions and that was me!

Its worth getting checked, what's a minutes slight discomfort to getting cancer and having chemotherapy or worse a hysterectomy
Be brave and get checked girls!

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Andrea26 said on 26 September 2012

I had my first ever smear test today at 3 pm. It is past midnight and I haven't been able to stop crying or shaking. I had a very rough nurse, who took my details, barked at me to take my clothes off (no screen available), did not explain or say anything but shoved the speculum into me and proceeded to open it until she actually tore tissue so that blood was everywhere. I was screaming since the time she pushed forcefully in, but she completely ignored my "No no stop no!". She just yelled over me "Are you sexually active?!Are you sexually active?!". Whilst still hurting me like I've never had pain before. For the record, I am sexually active but she still tore me up.Not one "I'm sorry", "we're almost ready", no reassurance at all. I hope to God I have 3 more years before I have to go through this again, I don't want anyone touching me ,not even my boyfriend. It was certainly a very unpleasant experience and a shock for me, maybe a little more training would go a long way!

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Khvor said on 15 July 2012

I had an unpleasant smear test recently. I was met by a rather hurried nurse who demanded my action to undress and position myself. She came over and spent a rather long time looking down at me before asking about any 'abnormalities' I had experienced. I said I though I was hear for a smear test and she simply replied she was checking for infections, STI's, candida before completing hte smear test. Is this usual? There was no mention of other tests beforehand. I have no health worries but I though it was very strange.

I was relieved when the smear was over but not very warm and approachable experience. All rather off-putting.

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rebecca28 said on 26 June 2012

I have just returned home from my very first smear test after 3 years of putting it off. It was painless, very quick and as I was wearing a long skirt I didn't need to get undressed (other than knickers), skirt was draped over my knees. The nurse was very nice, explained everything clearly. When I was 25 I could not imagine anything more mortifying than having a smear test and had zero intention of going. As the years went by it was always at the back of my mind. I decided to bite the bullet and get it done because I was tired of being a coward and it hanging over me - I guess I grew up a bit. And to be honest the sitting in the doctors surgery waiting area biting my nails nervously was a lot worse than the test!! I'm so glad it's done now and hopefully I won't have to go back for 3 years. Although I now know that when I do go back I'll be much more relaxed and at ease with the procedure.

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nervousmum said on 26 June 2012

hello everyone. I Am very troubled. Early last year i had my screening test done and for the first time the result came back borderline. i was ad viced to go back in 6months time for a repeat test. before the 6moths i got pregnant. Just had my baby in april. During my 6weeks visit to the gp i was asked about my smear test. I explained to the nurse the situation and she asked me to book for a repeat smear test.

I did go for the screening.am yet to receive the results, been inpatient i dropped by at d gps and was told they have the results back. The gp were fully booked and i was told by the receptionist the doctor would give me a call.

The doctor called but i was not told what the result was. he only said i will be booked in for 6month repeat smear test.

Please folks what should i do in this case/

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Worrier81 said on 21 June 2012

I've just come back from having my third smear test. I don't look forward to them and wouldn't say I am at ease during the procedure but I urge everyone eligible for the screening programme to do it.
I am lucky to have dealt only with helpful nurses who have tried to put me at ease. They ask what perfume you are wearing or where you got an item of clothing so that you start to talk and relax - diversion tactics that I'm very happy to play along with! Ask for a female nurse and remember, they are professionals who do this all the time. Yes it's weird to lay there with your nether regions exposed to a stranger and more than a little unusual when they start rummaging around but it could save your life.
Personally I've experienced bleeding after my last two smear tests but am told this is normal and 2/3 women experience the same. I have also had cramps similar to period pain but they ease after a short time.
The whole thing takes a couple of minutes but could flag up pre-cancer warning signs that are TREATABLE!
Before my first smear test my mum said to give yourself a little treat after each test. After all, you just plucked up the courage to go and do something that wasn't pleasant and perhaps was a little uncomfortable but you did it. I'm off to get a nice cup of coffee and naughty pastry as my treat :)

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adele38 said on 14 June 2012

HI ladies,I would like to share what i went through Tuesday 12th June 2012. I had been for my regular smear test only for it to come back with abnormal cells found (first ever). I had to wait 4 weeks for an appointment & the waiting is hard your mind starts to think the worse. I went to my local hospital Tuesday there and had a biopsy done. What the doctor said was the abnormal cells was at a scale 3 which is high so he burnt away the abnormal cells there and then. It was sore at all just a little uncomfortable but at the end of the day its my health and i have a young daughter at home to think of as well. I had to have a local to num the area again wasn't sore. They talked through everything they were going to do to me and i asked questions (am nosy) lol and again its my body i wanted to know. So i have to wait a further 4 to 6 weeks for my results to come back,just have to ring my own gp. Have to go back to the hospital in 6 months for another smear instead of every 3yrs. So i pray to god that my results come back normal and no more abnormal cells come back. I hope this will be a comfort to anyone that will go through the same as many women out there do so everyday. You do think your the only person this is happening to (i did) but trust me your not alone. I had my mum with me as its a scary thing to go through yourself. so ladies please don't avoid going for your smear test.

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megan1978 said on 09 June 2012

I lost a dear friend 18 months ago to cervical cancer. It was horrendous and she was too young to die.

I always make sure I have regular smear tests. I have had normal results but 6 months ago it came back has borderline changes. 3 months prior to having it i had just given birth to my son and thought that it was because of that. I have recently had another smear test and it came back normal. The waiting is horrible but it saves life's and i hope all women get checked regular. I look at my children and would never risk them going without a mother. They are my life. I look at what happened to Jade Goody and it was such a waste of a young life and her children have lost their mother.

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springtulip said on 09 May 2012

Where can I buy a self-test kit for the cervical smear test? Google is turning up lots of newspaper articles talking about how the kits are on sale in the UK, but there are no links to the manufacturer's website.

I will not attend an appointment for a standard smear under any circumstances. I am very comfortable with my own body and completely capable of performing the test myself.

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rab67 said on 07 May 2012

RE: Saran7 9th April 2012
As far as I'm aware, HPV is not the only thing to cause cervical cancer. Cancer research website has some very good information on other 'risk factors.' But remember, HPV can be transmitted from mother to baby and through skin to skin contact, not exclusively penetrative sexual intercourse so having just one partner does not rule it out completely.
I have been under the impression that just having sex can increase your likelihood of cancer irrelevant of HPV but this may be just an old wives tale!

When it comes to the procedure, I have recently chosen to undergo a number of similar procedures to have the IUD fitted and have got quite used to taking my clothes off in a room full of women! In fact, in a strange way it was almost fun, we gossiped and they kept me calm. These people have seen everything, it is all very normal for them. Any nervousness or awkwardness is entirely coming from me and I have learnt that forcibly relaxing is the key or it can be painful. Tell them of your worries, laugh at yourself and if they hurt you tell them, they will be gentle if you are nice to them!! I now know the names of the doctors who are most helpful and intelligent and answer my questions and always ask for appointments with them. It took a few visits to the GP to find the ones I like but it's worth it (I also have a blacklist for all the hateful ones)!

Booking an appointment for a time when they aren't doing a smear blitz may be better too, they will have more time for you.

The way I see it is this: I am very low risk for cancer (only one sexual partner etc) but I will be going to get a smear not because i'm a hyperchondriac but because they are offering me something (for free) to check on something that can't be seen by looking. If by some miniscule chance there is a problem it will save so much trouble. If there isn't a problem? Well, no harm done in the long run.

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kimv28 said on 26 April 2012

I had a smear when I was 25 and was told that I had borderline changes. I did not go back for a repeat because I read that in most cases it goes back to normal itself.
I then had a repeat 3 years ago and it came back abnormal went for further testing and had to have a biopsy. It wasn't until a nurse told me that these abnormal cells were precancerous that I began to understand the seriousness.
I have now had to have a procedure to remove these cells and have to have regular yearly checks for the next 10 years.
For what takes a few minutes of your life whether uncomfortable or not it really is worth it.
If I had not had the test done again I could possibly be facing cancer.

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MsTS said on 26 April 2012

I've just had my first test and wanted to share my experience on here, to help anyone who is about to go for their first. I'll be honest, I was quite scared, but you know what? There was absolutely no need to be! It was a bit strange, and having a stranger poke around down there isn't exactly fun, but there was absolutely no pain or discomfort. What's more, it only took about a minute. So if you are nervous like I was please don't be, you will be absolutely fine!

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bee_edinburgh said on 25 April 2012

I am 34 years old and I had my smear test (3rd one) today, waiting for the results now. I read some of the comments talking about the pain and I can tell you I have not had any pain. I was uncomfortable in my first test, probably fearing the unknown but the nurse/ doctor whoever is doing it gives you good instructions and informs you on what's happening second by second.
The whole test does not even take a minute and this minute includes you lying down, putting your ankles together, the lubing process, insertion of the plastic and collection of the cells. Not even a minute.

The plastic speculum is tiny and it is lubed. Just take a deep breath. It will hurt only if you tense your muscles. You feel the collection of the cells but it definitely does not hurt.

No pain during or after the test. I personally think it hurts more when you are giving a blood sample.

All women should go through this test without any worry at all. Yes, it is not too pleasant to lie down half of your body naked but the person who collects the sample is a professional and they make you feel at ease at all times.
Considering the fact that you might be saving your life, bearing with a plastic speculum for 20-30 seconds is effortless.

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Saran7 said on 09 April 2012

I have only had one sexual partner who has only ever had sex with me, I assume therefore we are both HPV free and I do not need a smear test as the sexually transmitted HPV is the only link to cervical cancer risk.

This page indicates that anyone who has sexual contant is at risk and there appears no differentiation of risk. My GP nurse could offer no facts and just referred me to the stale leaflet issued by the screening authority.

Can anyone help me evaluate my risk compared to the discomfort of the screening proceduer. I would like to make an informed choice.

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janinef said on 04 April 2012

I've just had my first smear for 15 years. I used to have them every 3 years but found it very uncomfortable so stopped going for them. I convinced myself to go recently and found it so much better than the past ones I had, as the instruments are made to measure now, not one size for all as they were and metal! It did sting a little, but only because I was tense, you have to relax, it makes all the difference. Please don't avoid going for the test, it could save your life! Even nuns can get cervical cancer. It;'s only 5 minutes of your life, over before you know it.

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Miss Lemon said on 07 March 2012

I had my first smear test in the last 2 weeks and I'm pleased to say I got an 'All Clear' result today.

As is obvious from the range of views here, everyone will experience it differently.

I was nervous, and embarrassed to go, but my nurse was friendly and talkative - but then I did actually tell her I was really nervous before I even sat down. Don't assume it's obvious to the nurse, do tell them what's bothering you.

I was particularly worried as I often find sex slightly uncomfortable and always use lubricant, but you can't use any before the test.

Like Brey above my nurse used a plastic speculum, which was less intimidating! When it was inserted it felt ok, not exactly pain free or pleasant! But it was alright, and certainly bearable. My nurse even suggested I put my hands under my bum/hips to change the angle and that felt a bit more comfortable for me.

I tried to keep breathing deeply through out it, and thinking about the things I had to do that day to take my mind off it.

The little brush / swab thing I barely even felt.

All in all that took about 10 minutes including a good chat at the beginning and then the test.

I can't promise you it won't hurt, but like a lot of things I'd say it's worth it for the benefit.

I'm incredibly proud of myself and the other women who get tested, and I feel very greatful I was able to be tested fairly painlessly.

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blackonblond said on 06 March 2012

I am single, childless, 30 years old and I have cancer. I am currently undergoing chemo and I may never be able to get pregnant - naturally or otherwise. The pain from a smear test can vary depending on the person but no more (unless you have a severe case like one of the ladies who posted below) than period cramps. PLEASE if you are reading this and are scared to go, please at least try. And ignore the person below me who "is so happy they never have to ever have a smear test they could die". I hope you don't ever come close.

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Shebastian said on 04 March 2012

Cancer Research reports a 1 in 134 lifetime risk of cervical cancer. This is just too small for me to have to go through this unpleasant procedure. After four years of deferring my first smear test I have decided not to worry and live my life without this screening. I am not sure how many abnormal smears would result in no cancer developing. I know that the body heals itself well usually. I think the screening promotion is no scientifically proved to be highly effective and the anxiety, pain and unnecessary treatments are never explained in the screening propoganda leaflets. It seems the screening servces are promoting their own jobs.

It feels great to know I will never have a smear test.

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Applewood said on 03 December 2011

It is wonderful that many women like Dee_27 find the screeing process so pain free. I have now had three smears and all of them were uncomfrotable. I have had severe pain after two of them, I am ansious before and during the process. I cannot imagine the process lasting only 1 minute. My nurses have been uncaring and dismissive. They are under pressure of time and therefore do not always allow me time to share my fears or talk to me about what is being done. Once I had to undress infront of the nurse as the screen was not available.

It is important to consider the screening invitation as it could save your life, but it could also be a waste of time and simply be an unbearable medical process. Just my thoughts,

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Dee_27 said on 01 December 2011

I went for my first test this morning. I read the comments here yesterday and was a bit nervous beforehand as a result, but I shouldn't have been, it was absolutely fine.

These comments mostly strike me as hypochondria, scaremongering nonsense and did nothing to make me feel better. My nurse was really professional, concise and did everything she could to make me comfortable.

My message to any other young, level-headed women my age (20s) is to go for it, because it is nothing at all.

The speculum was plastic too, not metal and everything was done in less than one minute. It is indeed more of an unusual feeling than painful feeling and I promise you that stubbing your toe or burning yourself on the oven hurts far, far more!

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sandyfeet said on 24 November 2011

Re: comment on Feb 2011 If anyone turns a speculum inside you complain loduly and repeatedly. it is painful and unnecessary. Any one doing this should remove the speculum, turn it outside the body before placing it back in. I had treatment many years ago involving a speculum. The GP handled it fine, but when one of the nurses did it, she turned the speculum inside me, I was distressed for the rest of the day and returned to complain to the GP the next day. It never happened again.

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Brey said on 19 October 2011

For anyone that reads this like I did before their first smear test due to not really know what it involves - it's really not that bad! Whilst the video shows a metal speculum, my surgery has transparent plastic ones - much less intimidating! I assumed if it hurt anyone it would be me but whilst I could feel it it was barely even uncomfortable and over within a few mins. My nurse said she does so many of them she's gotten good at it. Just wanted to reassure anyone else panicking a little before going for their first one!

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HollyHock said on 02 March 2011

I've just had my first smear test and I want to reassure visitors to this site: I was diagnosed with vaginismus when I went to have my first ever smear test over a year ago. After quite an upsetting experience the nurse was not able to take a swab and another doctor was called to examine me and confirm the nurse's suspicion that I had 'severe vaginismus' (involuntary tightening of the vagina, pain etc.)

I was referred to a specialist sex counsellor on the NHS and within a few months of my first appointment with her I was able to have 'normal' sex!! (had not been having sex at the time of diagnosis for 3 years+ so had no idea there might be a problem - although I wasn't a virgin Vaginismus is something that can come on at any time for unknown reasons).

Today (about 4 months since I last saw the sex counsellor) I went to have my smear test re-done. I asked the doctor if I could insert the speculum myself, which she allowed (she suggested I use the smaller one used for virgins). She even left the room for a few minutes to take the pressure off! I practised opening the speculum and when she returned she opened it and took the swab. It was slightly uncomfortable but nowhere near as uncomfortable as sex can be sometimes (I gather normal sex takes a few months to get used to - it's only just stopped hurting all together but the vaginismus is definitely totally gone).

If you can try to relax as much as possible before your appointment, ask for a longer session if you think you will need it, let the health professional know you would like to insert it yourself and take some time to breathe and relax it will help a lot. If I can do it (with my history of tears and excruciating pain and a vagina that clamped down with as much strength as it did) I know others can do it too!

Good luck :)

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wipedout said on 01 February 2011

After all of the reassurance that the smear should not be painful, only uncomfortable, I arrived at my appointment yesterday very relaxed. In fact, having put it off for more years than I care to mention, I impressed myself by just how relaxed I was.
Having the speculum inserted was fine but once the nurse opened it the pain began. This only got worse as the nurse began to move the speculum around. I actually yelled out in pain a couple of times with the nurse saying no more than the ocassional responsive "sorry".
I think it was made worse because of all the reassurances in the leaflets about it being painless. To make things worse a cervical polyp was discovered and I am being referred to gynaecology outpaitients to have it removved - I don't even get 3 years to get over this experience!!
I am hoping now that the nurse was perhaps a little heavy handed or blase and that my polypectomy will be less of an ordeal. If so, I will be asking my GP to do future tests in the hope that he will be more gentle.

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Sista Sista said on 26 January 2011

It is disappointing to see facts interwoven to create fear and confusion.
1) Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under 35
2) About 2,800 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
This question needs to be answered. How many women under 35 are diagnosed with cervical cancer (Most cancers are very rare in younger people). The figures I have read elsewhere indicate the average age of cervical cancer patients is 48 so I guess not that many women are affected under the age of 35. It would be good to see the figures on this website.
Where is the health information advising HPV is an absolute requirement for cervical cancer to develop? Why is this not explained to help protect young women and help them make lifestyle choices to improve their health? Once again NHS choices lacks accuracy and completeness and leaves itself open to bias.

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Lady T said on 15 July 2010

Hello there,

I wrote this humorous poem (see below) - 'The Main Thing To Remember is….RELAX!', with the idea that it will inspire and hopefully make more women have
this very important Cervical Smear Test done. I hope you enjoy my poem, but also take in it's message.

Cheers, Nicole.

The Main Thing To Remember is….RELAX!

“It’s really not that bad.”
“Oh no! It didn’t hurt me”
“The main thing to remember is…relax!”
‘RELAX!? Are they completely off their trolley!?’

The letter arrived yesterday.
The words jumped out of the page;
Advisable, CERVICAL SMEAR TEST, it is simple and painless,
and pick’s up abnormal changes in the cervix at a very early stage.

My appointment was now booked.
The time had finally come.
I spent the day simply terrified!
‘Oh! How I needed my mum.’

There was no turning back.
For my own good this had to be done.
I entered the room, chatted with the nurse, clapped eyes on the utensils,
and instantly considered making a run.

Now the nurse has seen this all before,
but frankly, this is the part I had dread.
So I summoned up my courage, whipped off my trousers and nick’s,
laid on the couch and thought….
‘Is there anything more embarrassing? - OK go ahead.’

As the nurse got on with her job, - I tried to relax.
Yet with everything so tightly clenched and tense and mind full of worry,
I made thing’s more discomforting and so longed to scream, -
‘This hurts! Have you found Australia? Come on! Let’s hurry!’

Looking back to my smear test,
it really wasn’t that bad.
Results came through, all is clear,
Phew! Am I thrilled and far more than glad.

The point is, all women should fairly regularly have this test,
and remember, - ‘RELAX’ is the keyword here.
It only takes a few important minutes,
and once it’s done, you can give a great big cheer


© Nicole Tomlin

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Avluv said on 25 April 2010

Whilst there is a screening programme for pre-cancer cells of the cervix, no screening is available to women who are at risk of pre-cancer cells of the vulva, which is caused by the same HPV virus. The incidence of VIN 1,2 and 3 of the vulva has increased by 392% in the last decade. The introduction of the vaccine for HPV will, in 50 years time reduce the figures for VIN by 50%, in the meantime, for the next 50 years 100% of women at risk from this condition will have no warning of risk whatsoever. Would anyone like to comment? The only organisation trying to redress the balance in the equality of women's health information is via self-examination of the vulva. www.vhac.org

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Screening and testing timeline

What screening should you have?

Screening and testing can help diagnose conditions. Use this interactive tool to see which tests apply to you.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is an uncommon type of cancer that develops in the cervix (entrance to the womb)