Today is my birthday. I woke up, opened my lovely cards and presents and then got ready to take Amelia to nursery. I treated myself to a Starbucks drive-through whilst my Dad sang happy birthday on loud speaker, had a few more birthday phone calls and then I went for a smear test. Not your usual birthday activity, I know! When I rang for an appointment and they gave me 20th July I almost rearranged but I’d already had to cancel it a few times so didn’t want to delay it any longer.
In 2013 I had my first smear test. I thought nothing of it and just assumed everything would come back normal. I got a letter stating that they had found CIN2 cells which indicates moderate changes; affecting two-thirds of the thickness of the surface layer of the cervix and that I needed to go to the hospital so they could have a closer look. I was petrified and to be honest the letter wasn’t very reassuring. I ended up having a Loop Excision of the Cervix which involves using a small wire loop with an electrical current running through it to cut away the affected area of tissue and seal the wound at the same time. The procedure was carried out using local anaesthetic and although it was a bit scary being awake the nurses did a fantastic job of talking me through it and keeping me calm. Three months later I had another smear and thankfully it came back all clear.
After this experience I spoke to everyone I could about going for smears. ‘Make sure you don’t miss your appointment’ or ‘Better to be safe than sorry’ but I’ve found myself having to have this conversation with myself this time. I’ve rearranged my appointment at least 4 times due to my own poor planning. I was annoyed at myself for leaving it so long and with a family member being very ill with cancer it should have been a top priority, but it wasn’t. We have a toddler, jobs and a house to keep on top of and life just seems to get in the way sometimes.
“Among women aged 25-49 in England and women aged 20-60 in Scotland, age-appropriate cervical screening coverage fell between 2004/05 and 2007/08, then rose and plateaued for several years (probably partly due to the death of young celebrity from cervical cancer), before starting to fall again in recent years. Age-appropriate cervical screening coverage among women in England aged 50-64 has fallen steadily since 2003/04.” – Cancer Research UK
Only 70-73% of women are having their routine smear tests. Whether this is because they are embarrassed, scared or just too busy they are putting their health at risk. I don’t get embarrassed easily but trust me, the nurses have seen it all before, many many times! It’s a little uncomfortable but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does, that’s an even bigger reason to see the nurse. We need to learn to put ourselves first sometimes. If we’re not healthy then it’s not just us who suffers.
That’s why I didn’t rearrange this time. What better birthday present could I give to myself and my family?
For more information on smear tests click here.