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What Happens During a Smear Test? Smear Test Anxiety – The Myths and Truths

Posted on August 9th, 2023

Regular cervical screening, commonly known as a smear test or Pap test, is an essential aspect of women’s healthcare. This simple procedure plays a crucial role in detecting abnormalities in the cervix and preventing cervical cancer. However, smear test anxiety often stems from misinformation and myths surrounding the procedure. In this blog, we will explore the process of a smear test, address common concerns, and separate the myths from the truths.


When to Book a Smear Test

In the United Kingdom, it is recommended that women between the ages of 25 and 64 book a smear test every three to five years. The exact frequency depends on your age and previous test results. It is crucial to attend regular screenings to ensure early detection and prompt treatment, if necessary.


Smear Test Meaning and Importance

A smear test, or cervical screening, is a vital preventive measure for women’s health. It aims to detect any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix before they develop into cervical cancer. Early detection allows for timely intervention and treatment, significantly reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer.


What Happens During a Smear Test?

During a smear test, you will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on an examination table. The healthcare professional, usually a nurse or doctor, will insert a small instrument called a speculum into your vagina to gain access to the cervix. They will then use a small brush or spatula to gently collect a sample of cells from the cervix. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.


Period and Smear Test

Many women wonder whether they can have a smear test during their period. The general advice is to avoid booking a smear test when you are menstruating. This is because blood may affect the accuracy of the results by making it harder to interpret abnormal cells. Ideally, it is best to schedule your smear test at least five days after your period has ended.


Can You Have a Smear Test on Your Period?

In some cases, if it is not possible to reschedule your smear test due to logistical or personal reasons, you can still have the test while on your period. However, it is essential to inform the healthcare professional beforehand so that they can make appropriate arrangements. They may advise using a tampon or menstrual cup to minimise interference with the sample.


Bleeding Two Days After a Smear Test

Experiencing light bleeding or spotting after a smear test is relatively common and not typically a cause for concern. The procedure can sometimes cause slight irritation, leading to minor bleeding. However, if the bleeding is heavy, persistent, or accompanied by pain, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider.


Smear Test Anxiety

It is natural to feel anxious about undergoing a smear test, especially if it is your first time. However, it is important to remember that the procedure is relatively quick, lasting only a few minutes. The healthcare professional performing the test will ensure your comfort and explain each step. If you experience severe anxiety or fear, you can discuss it with your healthcare provider in advance.


Cervical Screening and Smear Test Results

After your smear test, the sample is examined under a microscope to check for any abnormal cells. The results are usually available within a few weeks. It is important to note that the vast majority of smear test results come back as normal. However, in some cases, abnormal cells may be detected, indicating the need for further investigation.


Smear Test Abnormality and Abnormal Cells

If your smear test results show abnormal cells, it does not necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Abnormal cells can be caused by various factors, including human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Further tests, such as a colposcopy, may be recommended to determine the extent of any abnormality and guide appropriate treatment.


Smear, HPV, and Smear Test Results

Sometimes, the smear test is combined with an HPV testto provide more comprehensive information. HPV is a common virus that can cause changes in the cervix, potentially leading to cervical cancer. If your smear test results indicate the presence of HPV, further evaluation may be required. It is important to remember that most HPV infections clear up on their own without causing any long-term harm.


Do Smear Tests Test for STI’s?

It is important to note that smear tests, also known as cervical screenings, are specifically designed to detect early signs of cervical cancer and abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. While smear tests are a crucial preventive measure for cervical cancer, they do not serve as a comprehensive screening method for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

STIs are caused by different pathogens and can affect various parts of the body, not just the cervix. Therefore, it is necessary to undergo a separate test to specifically screen for STIs. These tests often involve different methods such as blood tests, urine tests, or swab samples from the affected area. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for guidance on the appropriate tests needed to screen for and diagnose STIs. Find out more about our sexual health clinic.



Understanding what happens during a smear test and debunking the myths surrounding it can help alleviate anxiety and encourage women to prioritise their cervical health. Regular screening, as recommended by healthcare professionals, is crucial for early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. 

Remember, a smear test is a quick and simple procedure that plays a significant role in maintaining your overall well-being. Stay informed, stay proactive, and take charge of your cervical health. 


For more information on the services we provide in our surgery, take a look at our clinic services page or contact The Brooke Surgery for advice or to book an appointment with us.

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