Ladies, if there is one thing you need to get behind, it should be this.
As a woman who has struggled with a lifelong battle with anxiety and who is now within the regular smear test age range, let me tell you that smear test days are none too fun. They’re not fun for most women, and they certainly aren’t fun if you suffer with anxiety.
The first time I managed to pluck up the courage to attend, I was vaguely aware of the speculum inside me, then I felt vulnerable, then stretched, then sore, then like she was going to tear me in two. I left that appointment feeling as though I was bleeding from the undercarriage. I sort of did, my period started about 12 hours later – heavily.
My second time the nurse talked, yep, talked to my “shy cervix”. As if it wasn’t uncomfortable and awkard enough feeling exposed to said stranger, the nurse decided to have a good ol’ natter with my most intimate parts.
That evening, curled up in thebathtub, sipping on a large glass of O’Connors and wondering if it was all worh it, I admitted to my mother how I felt. I knew that cervical screening could save my life, and I knew the risk of developing cancer was not worth it, but holy cow, if I could just not have to go through that again then I would do it.
I would pay to not do that again, I would let them take blood to not do that again. Whatever it took, they could do it. Anything was better than the alternative.
Cervical screening isn’t painful, I’m sure. For what it’s worth, despite a very menacing looking brush, you hardly feel it. It isn’t the brush that hurts, it’s your body clenching your vaginal muscles and resisting the speculum that holds you open. If you’d just relax, they tell you, it would be easier, and so much more comortable for you.
The trouble is, when you’re anxious, relaxing is sort of the last thing that your body wants you to do.
The article I’ve linked above suggests that it is only for women who are too anxious to attend a cervical screening exam, but I don’t think a receptionst should be allowed to discriminate between who is too anxious and who gets propped open by the doctor. If this test is to be available for anxious women and sexually abused women, then it should be made available for ALL women, regardless of their story.
As for me, next year I am due to be called up again. I am hoping by then that this test will be mainstream, and the once dreaded speculum can be resigned to the National Museum of Medicine, or rather, displayed as a long forgotten method of torture, where frankly it belongs.