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Amy's first cervical screening (smear test) took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, and found that she needed further investigation at colposcopy. She shared what this was like and her top tips for making this a more comfortable experience.
I work for an organisation focused on women but I had no idea about anything to do with smear tests (cervical screening) really. It’s like it’s a controversial topic, everyone hides from it.
After being diagnosed with a different, treatable illness in August 2020 I went for my first ever smear test. I had got my letter to book a few months prior to turning 25, which was in the April, but I had to cancel my first appointment due to coming on my period early.
It was stressful going during the pandemic. I sort of knew what the test was for, not the details. Having to wear a mask, and the added anxiety and pressure of the pandemic probably made it even more unusual and weird than it would have been in normal times. It’s strange waiting for appointments and things on your own as no one can come near you or with you. The test itself was fine and over quickly.
For some reason I thought my results wouldn’t be great. I didn’t have any symptoms, I think it was just life feeling stressful at the time and the pandemic means you just have time to think about everything too much.
I was told I was positive for HPV and had abnormal cells with borderline changes. Even though I was expecting it a bit, it still shocked me and was a little worrying but what worried me more was the fact I needed a colposcopy and cervical biopsy. I had no idea what that meant and I was quite scared. I wasn’t actually sure what HPV even was, before I was told I am positive for it! It’s another thing no one talks about so when you get close to 25 you’re suddenly bombarded with all these terms and it can be scary.
In December 2020 I had my colposcopy and biopsy. It was a little traumatic as I had to go alone (due to covid) and I wasn’t able to take any pain relief because of the medication I am taking due to my illness. It was very weird in the hospital on my own, I even got lost! I overheated during the biopsy and went into a bit of shock, that was tough. I had been planning on getting a taxi back but they said I needed to get picked up as I had reacted like I did. In the middle of the pandemic this was so hard as you weren’t meant to get into people’s cars and be close to people you didn’t live with so that was an added bit of stress.
I got my the results a few weeks after colposcopy saying I had CIN1, luckily that is the milder end and there is a chance my cells will change back without needing any treatment. I decided not to tell my family straight away because it was Christmas and the pandemic made it harder. I didn’t want to do it over the phone and couldn’t see people face to face. It sounded so much worse by message. When I finally did tell everyone, they were super supportive.
I am ok with my colposcopy results, even though it is a little frustrating that the cells can change and I wouldn’t know, I’m feeling positive because CIN1 is a good place, it’s mild, and in the early stages. I think my results and my story are the perfect example of why it’s SO important you do go for your smear as soon as you can. My next steps are keep up with my yearly smears which I’m so grateful I can have, and get this message out there as much as possible, it definitely is my mission to end smear fear and educate all women. It’s life saving stuff!
For me, the whole experience has raised the fact that I and other girls my age or younger have no clue about these procedures or why screenings are carried out. So I am on a mission to educate young girls and also encourage women of every age to go for regular screenings - it is so important! It can save your life!