Nobody likes going to the gynecologist, but it’s important to go for cervical screening from the age of 25 to protect yourself from cervical cancer. Between the ages of 25 and 49 you have to take a smear test every three years, between the ages of 50 and 64 you only have to take a test for five years. After that, all you have to do is take a swab if your last three tests were abnormal. The more you get tested, the less embarrassed you will be when a doctor examines your private parts. To make it more comfortable Express.de with the founder of the Lunette menstrual cup, Heli Kurjanen, about her top tips for preparing for a smear (and whether you can request a doctor).
When you turn 25, your doctor will send you a letter inviting you to have your first cervical screening.
You will receive the letter in the six months before your 25th birthday, but you should always plan for an early examination if you have any gynecological symptoms before the letter arrives.
Heli explained, “Such symptoms include irregularities in the menstrual cycle, unusual or severe pain in the vaginal or pelvic area, abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, swelling, tenderness, sores, lumps or itching, or unusual changes in the chest.”
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What happens with a smear?
The process of cervical screening is quite simple and your doctor or nurse will explain what will happen and answer any questions you have before the test begins.
The doctor may also ask about your general health, especially genital pain or problems.
You will also likely ask about menstruation, sexual activity, and birth control.
You may also be asked questions about your family history, sexually transmitted disease prevention, pregnancy, illness, surgery, and drug and alcohol use.
Heli said, “Don’t feel embarrassed about any of these questions because if you lie at this point it may mean that you are not getting the best medical advice possible.
“You can rest assured that whatever you say will be kept confidential and that you will not be judged.”
The test takes less than five minutes and you should be in and out of the room within 10 minutes.
You will be asked to take off your underwear and lie on your back on the exam table before starting the test.
The doctor then inserts a speculum to hold the vagina open so that a swab can be inserted to remove a small sample of cells from the cervix.
Sometimes doctors will also do a pelvic exam during your screening.
Heli noted, “This is usually the most uncomfortable part for patients.
“A doctor uses a speculum to examine the vagina and cervix, then place the fingers of one hand in the vagina and press on the abdomen with the other hand.
“It is used to assess whether the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and cervix are healthy in size and position, and tries to detect ovarian or other cancers.”
You may also have a breast exam, which is quick and painless.
Heli explained, “The doctor will manually palpate your breast, feeling for lumps, thickening or discharge.
“They will also teach you how to do a personal breast exam yourself.”
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Here’s how to prepare for a smear test
You don’t have to do anything to prepare for your smear test, but you should book your appointment for an appointment when you won’t have your period as blood can affect your results.
Otherwise, all you have to do is shower regularly and not use powders or creams on the genital area.
Heli said, “While it is completely understandable to come to your appointment clean and fresh, you can be sure that you don’t have to clean yourself more thoroughly than you normally would.
“In fact, too much cleaning (showering, for example) can have a negative impact on your hormonal balance and possibly affect your exam.
“When you have a cervical exam, excessive washing can remove the cells that need to be examined.
“Also, any discharge you have can help your doctor understand your hormonal balance. So if you wipe it away, important information such as a change in flora, a bacterial imbalance or a yeast problem may be overlooked. “
Hair removal is not required unless you normally remove your hair down there.
Heli explained: “Your gynecologist only checks that you are healthy, they never judge you for having hair down there.
“Waxing and shaving can cause swelling or inflammation, which can make a pelvic exam more difficult.”
Your dress choices can make the appointment more awkward or easier, depending on how easy your clothes are to put on and take off.
Heli advised: “Wear comfortable and easy-to-take off clothing – jeans, leggings and tights make it very difficult to take off and put on. So try to stick to dresses or loose fitting pants and skirts.
“There’s also a chance you might need a breast exam, so a separate top and bottom will help.
“A button-down shirt will make this experience even more comfortable.”
Can I request a doctor?
Many women feel nervous about seeing their gynecologist and it is understandable that you would rather have your exam done by a doctor.
Swab tests are usually done by a nurse or doctor, but not always.
So what if you REALLY don’t want to see a male doctor?
Heli said, “Doctors certainly don’t hold off against patients who request a doctor of the same sex, and some clinics may even ask you about your preference when you book your appointment.
“You will never be asked to justify this request and will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and professionalism.”
However, not all hospitals and clinics will be able to provide a doctor on short notice.
If you feel uncomfortable in this case, you are welcome to have a female family member or friend accompany you, and you can always request an additional nurse attendant, explained Heli.
She added, “If you have requested a doctor and for some reason a male doctor greets you at your appointment, it is important that you remind the doctor and staff of your request.
“The employees will still not question this request, but will act professionally and try to correct the error.”