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Face Your Smear: What to expect from a smear test

Cervical cancer charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has updated guidelines about what to expect from a smear test as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Access to cervical screening will differ, depending on which part of the UK you live in.

Although your cervical screening test will be the same, your experience at your GP surgery may seem a little different at the moment.

Your GP surgery will have safety measures in place to keep you and their staff safe, including your nurse or doctor wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)  and being asked to follow certain instructions, such as waiting outside until it’s time for your appointment or using a particular door. 

What to expect from a smear test (pre-coronavirus)

Everyone’s experience is different, but knowing these tips before you go for cervical screening may help you feel more comfortable:

Ask for a nurse or doctor of a particular gender – for example, a female nurse. If you have a nurse or doctor you trust, check with your GP surgery if they are able to do your test.

Book a longer or double appointment. If you think you may need more time during or after your test, check if your GP surgery offers it. Be prepared for your GP surgery’s receptionist to ask why you need a longer appointment and remember you do not have to disclose anything.

If it's possible, take someone you trust with you. It could be a friend, family member, partner or someone else. They can be in the waiting room or examination room with you to offer support. They may also be able to speak on your behalf about any worries.

Talk to your nurse or doctor. If it is your first cervical screening, you feel embarrassed or worried, you have had a bad experience before, or you have experienced anything that makes the test hard for you, telling the person doing the test means they can try to give you the right support. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something, try writing it down.

If you feel comfortable doing so, wear a skirt or dress. You can keep this on during the test, which may help you feel more covered. You do get a paper sheet to cover yourself, but check if you can bring a spare shawl or blanket too.

Ask for a smaller speculum. Speculums come in different sizes, so if you find the standard size too uncomfortable, you can ask to try another size.

Ask to lie in a different position. Lying on your back may feel uncomfortable for lots of reasons. You can ask to lie on your left hand side with your knees bent (left lateral position).

If you have gone through or are going through the menopause, let your doctor or nurse know. As we get older, the opening of the vagina and vaginal walls become smaller and less able to stretch, which can make the test more uncomfortable. You can ask your nurse to give (prescribe) you a vaginal oestrogen cream or pessary, which may help.

Click here for cervical cancer helplines

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Weekdays 12.30pm