My First Cervical Screening

My first cervical screening

I’ve questioned several times whether this is something I should really be talking about on the internet. I mean, there’s TMI, and then there’s outright oversharing which makes people uncomfortable and I can’t quite decide where this falls exactly.

But I appear to be doing it anyway. So, if any family members are reading this, please don’t tell my Grandma I wrote about my vagina on the internet. Kay, thanks.

Once upon a time, I perhaps thought that my letter inviting me to my first cervical screening would actually arrive on my 25th birthday, lying amongst birthday cards and hefty amounts of cake. I wasn’t expecting it to pop up unannounced a good five months or so before I turned 25. Which is why I maybe got excited at the mysterious letter and thought maybe Hogwarts had finally decided to get in touch.

Pffft.

It took me several weeks to get round to making the appointment because life and then I fell at the first hurdle which was when I called my doctor’s surgery and the receptionist asked me when I was mid cycle.

Yes, fine, I should have known the answer to that. But honestly, I didn’t bloody know. Not just because the only thing I keep an eye on when it comes to ‘my cycle’ is when Ms P is gonna show up but because I am shockingly uneducated about these things. Anyone else a believer that sex ed at school was poor af? Like great, I learned how to put a condom on a cucumber (something I have NEVER had to do in real life, and certainly not in a sexual scenario. Unless, hang on, was the cucumber supposed to represent something....?). I asked friends when they think the beginning of their cycle starts and everyone gave me different bloody answers, proving my point. (Google says first day of your period if you’re still confused.)

I didn’t give the actually appointment much thought until the day came around and then I flicked through the little booklet the NHS had sent me and cringed at the diagrams.

Like what the eff is a speculum?!

Obvs I didn’t want to go but obvs I still did. Cos who the effing fuck wants cervical cancer?

I was the last appointment of the day and the nurse was a babe, who seemed chill and didn’t use the word speculum.

Although I gotta say, someone asking you what you do for a living whilst rooting around in your vagina is not the one.

Anyway, I had to lie back on the bed thing, and was told to take lots of deep breaths like we were about to start a yoga class and off she went. She kept telling me I was doing really well and to just keep breathing which I did, whilst also thinking that THIS WAS WEIRD, and then she stopped and told me that my cervix was rather high up.

Um, kay?

She had to get a longer swab so she could reach it. HOW DREAMY.

Oh and then there was blood.

THAT wasn’t in the effing brochure. She was all chill and said that some people do just bleed and not to be alarmed and I was like WHATEVER JUST GIVE ME A TISSUE.

And then half way through the second attempt, she says that she wants to do a cervical examination because there’s something on my cervix.

Cos that didn’t set off alarm bells.

But again, she was chill as a cucumber (I really should stop mentioning the cucumber) and said she was almost certain it was *insert name of something I can’t pronounce* which she described as like an under the skin spot, but on your cervix.

Only I would have acne inside my body.

She said she didn’t want to do the examination then because she didn’t want to make me bleed more, plus she couldn’t see properly cos of the blood and, I quote, ‘it’s dark in there’.

I can only apologise for my poorly lit vagina guys. I’d change the light bulb but my basic DIY skills are surprisingly shocking.

Two weeks later, I went back to repeat all the fun.

She poked around again, made me bleed again and spent an awful lot of time staring inside my vagina. No complaints of the lighting this time round though (probs cos I’d added fairy lights).

Eventually she said that she thought I had, basically, a skin tag on my cervix. If you’re not aware of the joy that is skin tags, they’re basically just harmless bits of extra skin that grow for no apparent reason. They tend to grow in awkward places but they don’t actually cause much harm unless they get caught on something, in which case they usually bleed. I am a pro when it comes to skin tags. Mine like to grow on my face just to be REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING. I have one under my left eye and one on the inside of my left nostril, and I’m currently on the waiting list at my GP surgery to have them removed.

So I wasn’t particularly surprised when I was told skin tags were growing on the inside of my body as well as the outside. Or that, when knocked, it bled (yay).

So the nurse wasn’t concerned but it’s standard procedure to refer a patient to a gynaecologist now that she’s seen it. A gynaecologist can take a closer look, potentially with a microscope, and confirm that it really is harmless. And maybe then people could stop looking up my god damn vagina.

So I wandered back to my life and had a snazzy Christmas, and my actual screening results came back normal, and everything was fine and dandy; until the nurse gave me a call in January saying that before they refer me, the doctor wanted to have a look at whatever it was.

It was official. My vagina had never been this popular.

This time round (in my third vaginal exam but who’s counting?) I got a different prognosis. Either it was a skin tag or, more likely, cervical ectropion.

Nope, I didn’t know what she was chatting about either.

Even when I left the GP, I was still confused so I did what any rational person would do. I stared at a lot of vagina diagrams, read a Wikipedia page and asked my best friend (a nearly-qualified medic) to explain it to me via snapchat drawings (see the artwork above).

Essentially, it’s a common condition where cells from the cervical canal are present on the outside of the cervix. I think. Probably. That’s how I’ve understood it anyway. It can be caused by hormonal changes that occur from being on the pill and is not linked to the development of cervical cancer.

But the doctor still couldn’t be one hundred percent sure so I’ve still gotta go see a gynaecologist and am still waiting for a letter to show up referring me.

And THAT is how my first cervical screening went down.

I think I wanted to write about this because in the weeks between those appointments, I felt slightly nervous. Not all out but the thought lingered at the back of my mind. What if it isn’t something harmless? What if it’s a cyst? What if I have polycystic ovary syndrome? What if I can’t have children? What if it’s cervical cancer? These kinds of thoughts always drift in and out of our minds all the time. Mostly, we just dismiss them, just as easily as we dismiss going to the doctors for a check-up. It’s not urgent, we’re busy, we’ll be fine anyway.

I just googled cervical screening appointments and apparently (according to the internet anyway...) only one in three women in my age range (25 – 29) actually go and get screened, despite the fact that the screenings are free, take a very short amount of time and save as many as 5,000 lives a year.

I get feeling awkward and embarrassed (lol see this entire post) but I’d take awkwardness and embarrassment any day of the week if the alternative was effing cancer. Wouldn’t you?

So I think I wrote this post to show that it’s likely your cervical screening would be a lot less complicated than mine. Unless you have my luck but at least we can have bants about it. Great friendships are built on vagina stories – just sayin’. But otherwise, stop faffing about and book your appointment. It’s really not that big a deal and could potentially save your life.

Oh and I’ll keep you updated on how the gynaecologist appointment goes. I’m sure more hilarious banter will ensue and you can all lol at my life some more.

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