If you are sexually active, then a smear or pap test (different names for the same thing) is absolutely vital. It may seem embarrassing or scary, but don't hesitate to have one if you need it; it could save your life.
BBC - The Surgery - Body & Mind - Girls' Bodies - Smear tests
Cervical screening, pap test, smear.
What is a smear test?
It's a test to make sure we are not at risk of getting cancer of the cervix (neck of the womb).
Do I need to have a smear test?
Cervical cancer (cancer of the cervix) is one of the most common cancers in women and many women who've got it don't realise it for years. The earlier you find it, the easier cervical cancer is to treat, so it's important to get tested.
How do I get one?
Once you’re over 25 you’ll automatically get free smear tests from the NHS, who’ll write to you urging you to make an appointment. You'll be eligible for a free cervical screening test every three to five years until you're 64.
It's best if you don't have a smear test while you're on your period. The best time is two weeks after your period, but it doesn't have to be exact.
What will happen?
A doctor or nurse will take a sample of cells from your cervix and send them off to a laboratory to be tested. This isn't as scary as it might sound. It only takes a couple of minutes and, while it isn't exactly a barrel of laughs, it doesn't hurt.
- You'll need to take off your knickers and lie on your back with your legs bent and apart while the doctor or nurse uses a speculum (a small metal instrument) to look at your cervix.
- Then they'll use a tiny spatula to scrape some cells from your cervix. None of this should be painful, although it might be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you're nervous - so try to stay relaxed.
- Your results should be ready in a few weeks. Check with the doctor how to get your result.
- You can read a description of a smear test here.