Girls, LLETZ Talk Smear Tests
It’s a topic that doesn’t get spoke about nearly enough, and that’s female health. We hear a lot about pregnancy, babies and motherhood. We hear about breast checks for cancer and we hear about emotional health. But what about sexual health? It’s quite surprisingly, a taboo subject. We talk in whispers about sexual health clinics and with funding regularly being cut to these areas, education for girls on their reproductive health isn’t nearly available enough, and that is dangerous.
It’s dangerous to not know about your own sexual health. To not understand what can go wrong, what the symptoms are if something has gone wrong, which sexually transmitted diseases don’t come with any symptoms at all is dangerous. Knowing how to stay sexually healthy is important for your overall health and wellbeing, both physically and emotionally. The other taboo subject? Smear tests. Every single woman should know what a smear test is, what it’s for and when you should have it done. In this article, we’re going to go through it all with you, point by point.
1) Who Has It?
Smear tests are for women aged 25 and above in England. There have been mass campaigns to drop the age for smear tests to from the age of sexual activity, as there has been a rise in the number of cases of cervical cancer in younger women. Unfortunately, this change has yet to be made and a doctor will refuse to do the test before the age of 25.
2) What Is It?
For those of you reading this who aren’t as clued up, a smear test is literally a light scraping of your cervix to collect cells and test for changes. Changes can naturally occur over time and in some cases, smear tests pick up abnormal cells. An internal check for STI’s is done in a similar way and you can order treatment for chlamydia should you test positive for this. That’s it. You go to the GP, you hang your dignity at the door with your coat and knickers and you let them get a good look at your lady bits. Cringeworthy? Yes. Clinical and cold? Yep. Lifesaving? Absolutely.
3) Why Have It?
Did you know that the detection of abnormal cells on a smear test can save your life? Cervical cancer is one of the nastiest around as it rarely comes with symptoms until it is fairly advanced, so finding Grade 1 cells on a smear test means you have caught pre-cancerous cells. This is the part that saves your life. The smear test gets packaged up and sent away for testing and they check whether the cells taken from your cervix are normal or abnormal. Very rarely does a cervical smear test positive for cancer, usually it catches any precancerous changes and allows you the time to get something done about these changes. Once you’re done, off you go home and wait a couple of weeks for the results.
4) When Should I Have It?
Never put off a smear test. Not only should you be getting regular checks if you are having unprotected sex, you should be having a cervical screening every three years from the age of 25. It’s not a pleasant experience, but it doesn’t hurt and honestly, your GP has seen it all before. That five minutes you take out of your day for a little embarrassment can make all the difference to your future and your health. If you are presenting with symptoms that are unusual for you – bleeding between periods for example – then you must get yourself booked in. Any and all changes should be reported.
5) Where Do I Go From Here?
If you have been found to have abnormalities, you’ll be booked for a colposcopy and possible a LLETZ procedure. This is a closer look at your cervix and a treatment to scrape away any abnormal cells, with what looks like a hot cheese wire. It’s a ‘long loop excision of the transformation zone’ that gets rid of bad cells while cauterising the wound at the same time.
Smear tests are there to save lives, and talking about them can encourage those who don’t get checked to go for a test. They’re not taboo, they’re not a secret we should hide. Our reproductive health, bladder function and fertility depends on catching the abnormalities early enough. So, go and book yourself a smear test today. It’s better to keep your eyes open than bury your head in the sand!