Don’t Be A Fanny. Get Checked.

Did you know that young women like you and I are avoiding smear tests because they’re ashamed of their bodies?

A whopping third of the British women surveyed by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust say that awkwardness – both around general body image and the appearance or smell of their vagina has put them off getting a test.


And you know what, this time around I’m embarrassed to say I count myself within these figures too. Only this weekend did my letter arrive inviting me in for testing. What did I do with it? I dropped it into the pile of what I call “not important to do’s” Whats more important than my health?

So I’m one of that 33 %. who just put it off.  And it got me thinking. How many other women are out there, just like me?

Well, as just mentioned (33%), just put it off. with 27%  worrying, it would be embarrassing or worrying it would be painful at (25%).

Testing is now at a 19 year low with only 72.7% of women attending their screening in 2015/16.

Which is absolute utter madness – given that Cervical Cancer is the most common form in women under 35 and smear tests can prevent 75% of cervical cancers.

So yesterday morning I booked my test.

You know, they really have seen it all before right? Trained for years and ultimately want to keep us all alive. One practice nurse we spoke to said: “quite frankly I don’t care whether you’ve waxed or shaved your legs, or you think your bits are a bit weird looking – It takes me 3 mins tops from start to finish – fastest Speculum in the west I am.” and that did make me laugh. And think how absurd some of these figures are. When all some of us need is reassurance, a bit of food for thought and gentle guidance.

If you really are scared and some people are – I get that. Or it’s your first time – you can ask for a female nurse or doctor. And to help you understand what should happen at a test and to further remove any of the unknowns, let us guide you through below exactly what happens when you get a smear test.

When you go into the room, you’ll be asked to take off your underwear by your nurse or doctor and lie on the bed. They should also give you a towel, or some paper towelling to cover you up with if you don’t have a skirt on. There will also be a screen or curtain that you can use to undress behind. Top Tip wear a dress or skirt – that way you can take off your underwear and still have your skirt to cover you – this way, you won’t feel so exposed.

Your nurse will ask you to put your heels together, then open your knees, letting them fall to the sides. That way she can get to your nether regions. (your vagina) With the help of some warm lube, she will insert a speculum. (Its a lot like a clamp and will either be metal or a transparent plastic) it’s not as scary as it sounds and may feel cold and quite hard.

At this point relax. Tensing up can make things uncomfortable. Talk to your nurse, ask her about her holiday plans. I’m sure she’ll gladly tell you if distraction and conversation help you. Next, she will pop a long thin brush into your vagina, sweeping it around your cervix to collect cells.

Personally, I’ve never ever felt this bit at all. This moment when the cells are collected lasts seconds, and the entire experience, just like our friendly nurse above says – over in three minutes and there is no lasting discomfort.

Voila – Smear over.

And you know what? If it is uncomfortable, speak up, don’t be embarrassed to tell your nurse or doctor. Remember the more you relax, the less you’ll feel any of it.

So ladies. Don’t be a fanny. Go and get yours checked. Those 3 minutes could save your life. smear tests, smear tests, smear tests, smear tests,


Diary of is a regular blog, by a regular Greenwich mum. Sharing experiences as a local parent (and member of this website) she’ll be writing about everything and anything. And being completely anonymous – you never know – you could have stood next to her in the Post Office or behind her in Cafe W…