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I was 25 years old when I got my first letter to book an appointment for a smear test but at that point I had never been sexually active so I didn't see the point in attending. I kept on receiving letters and two years later I finally went and had a smear test just because I was so fed up with receiving the letters. At the time I didn't know anything about cervical cancer and what exactly a smear test is for. The test itself was a bit painful so I asked my nurse about it. She explained that it was because of the brush technique they use to try to get the best sample of cells possible.
A few weeks later the results came back and showed that I had some abnormalities and that I should go for a colposcopy. I did go in for the colposcopy and they saw the affected area but it wasn't too big so I didn't have to have any treatment, but was told they had to monitor it regularly to see if the abnormalities would go away. However, I had got married in the meantime and fell pregnant with my first child soon after so the follow up checks were put on hold. I didn't go for my follow up check until after I had my baby and it was then that I was made aware how important cervical screening is and what it all means. Since then I have regularly attended my cervical screenings and luckily they have all come back clear.
I am Ghanaian and I think there is a lot of education needed about cervical cancer and the importance of screening amongst Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. There is a prejudice in the BME community that only girls who sleep around can get cervical cancer and if you have only ever been with your husband and are a healthy person you can't develop cervical cancer and don't need to attend screening. Also, the information that is already provided needs to be adapted to the BME community with, for example, the inclusion of more visual material. BME women sometimes don't understand the letters they receive, why they need to attend and what will happen during the test and therefore don't feel like it's necessary and are too busy anyway. I feel that nurses and GPs need to tell women that it might be painful and then explain why, that it is because of the brush technique they use where they try to get a good cell sample. If you don't explain this, women will have a bad experience, pass this onto their friends and then neither they, or their friends, will attend screening in the future.