Why was a cervical cancer screening test painful?

Q. I’ve just been to have a smear test and it hurt so much the nurse had to abandon trying to get a sample. She’s booked me in now for one of the doctors to take it. This has never happened before, and I don’t have any symptoms, so why was it so painful?

A. Pain during a smear test can be due to an infection in the vagina, such as thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Though thrush often causes soreness and itching, BV may not cause any symptoms, other than a slight fishy smell.

Having a smear test can also be uncomfortable if the nurse (or doctor) does not use sufficient lubrication on the speculum, which is the instrument used to allow the neck of the womb to be seen. In women past the menopause the vagina can be dry and slightly inflamed due to low levels of oestrogen, and the first sign of this is often discomfort either during sex or during a pelvic examination. This type of problem can be corrected using oestrogen cream inside the vagina.

Being anxious about having a smear test, and tensing up the pelvic muscles can also make it uncomfortable, but it does not sound as if this occurred in your case. Check with your doctor whether you need treatment before she attempts to do the smear again.