The Life Saving Little Brush

We all have quite a few brushes in our everyday lives, toothbrush, hair brush, make up brush and probably give very little thought to them. After all they do their job and that’s about it, they aren’t really that important.   However there is one little brush that is a life saver, it’s only a small one, but it does a fantastic job.  Let me introduce you all to an endocervical brush.

This little lady is what they use to do a smear test ladies (and gentlemen if you are reading).  We all know that we have to go for smear tests and with news reporting heavily on the sad case of the celebrity Jade Goody who lost her life to cervical cancer in 2009 at just 27 years old, there is evidence that more women are going for the test, lets hope this continues.  However, there are still a large proportion of women who have never had a smear test or are not up to date with their smear tests.  Statistics for 2012 show that 21% of eligible ladies are still not attending for their smear tests*.  So if you have simply forgotten or not got around to it, pick up your phone now and make an appointment.  10 minutes of your time can be spared I’m sure, and after all it could spare your life.  If you are worried about the test or embarrassed about having please read below, I will tell you exactly what to expect when you attend for your smear. 

You can get a free smear test done by the nurse at your GP’s surgery if you are aged between 25 and 64 years old.  25 to 49 year old will be invited every three years for a smear test and then every five years aged 50 to 64.  Under 25 year old are not routinely invited for screening as the prevalence rate of cervical cancer in this age range is low.  Also under 25’s are more likely to have an abnormal result when actually there is nothing wrong.  This is due to younger female bodies going through many natural changes within the cervix, this is completely normal but would result in an abnormal test.  Therefore more unnecessary, sometimes invasive tests would need to be carried out to eliminate precancerous cells.  However if you do feel something is not quite right you should always go see your doctor.

So for those of you reading this who have never had a smear test here is the truth about what to expect.

  • You will be called into the clinical room by the nurse.
  • They will ask you a few quick questions to confirm your details and gather some personal details, such as if you are with a regular partner and if you self examine your breasts. 
  • You will then be asked to remove your lower garments of clothing and underwear and lay on the bed with a large sheet of paper over your lower half.  The nurse will pull a curtain around you at this point so you have privacy to do this. 
  •  The nurse will then ask you to put your feet flat and pull your knees up and then drop them down to the side as wide as you can. 
  • You will then have a lubricated speculum inserted into your vagina, this helps to open up the vagina so the nurse can access your cervix easily.  This shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable, if it is tell the nurse so she can make it more comfortable for you. 
  • The nurse will then use the brush pictured above to brush around the cervix and collect the cells needed for analysis. The brush is made of a soft silicone type material so this isn’t a painful procedure, again if it is you should tell the nurse.
  • The speculum will then be removed.
  • The nurse will then leave you behind the curtain whilst you get dressed again.

Nothing scary.  It isn’t painful and it is over and done with in a matter of minutes.  The worst part is the embarrassment you feel but trust me, I work in a doctors surgery and the nurses do smears day in day out.  Unless you have eyes or an extra toe between your legs your most intimate parts will not be anything they haven’t seen before.

If the embarrassment is something that worries you though here are a few little tips to make the process a little less embarrassing.

  1. When you book your appointment make sure you book it for a time when you can go just after you have had a shower. 
  2. Wear a maxi dress or long skirt, this means you don’t feel as naked when you have to remove your trousers.  Plus you can use it as a little extra coverage than just the paper they give you. 
  3. I know from speaking to a few different ladies that a concern for some is whether or not to shave.  Honestly it doesn’t matter.  The nurse will not be examining how trim and tidy your lady garden is.
  4. Wear loser fitting, cotton pants.  We all know what they say about tight, synthetic, thongs and their association with thrush.  This is because bacteria breeds quickly and more easily in this environment, so to be feeling as fresh as possible, stick to the granny pants.  Nobody will see them but you. 
  5. Take a pack of baby wipes in your handbag, you can always pop into the toilet to have a little freshen up if you want to.

*Statistics from NHS Cervical Screening Programme Annual Review 2012, can be found here 

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