It lasts no more than 10 minutes and it could save your life.

But going for a smear test brings up so many uncomfortable feelings that several million women in the UK have not had one for at least three-and-a-half years, six months over the timeframe recommended by doctors.

I don’t know any woman who finds the experience of having a smear test something she looks forward to.

At best they are unpleasant and something you just have to get through, at worst they can be painful and traumatic, especially for women with mental health problems, a history of sexual abuse or learning and physical disabilities.

I think for all women, it’s a physically vulnerable experience. Few women feel they have much, if any, control over the situation and look to the medical professional in charge to put them at ease.

But that doesn’t always happen and it can lead to feelings of embarrassment, fear, confusion, shame, even.

While it is just as important as a trip to the dentist, having a smear test is in no way comparable. Much of this is down to a lot of womens’ health being a taboo area; an area that many are embarrassed to talk about, whether its periods and birth trauma, or smears and vaginas.

So in many respects it is not a surprise that despite its life saving abilities – smear tests prevent 75 per cent of cervical cancers because they detect early, abnormal cell changes before a cancer develops – take-up rates for the test are at their lowest in more than two decades.

In fact, rates are now so poor that they are way below the NHS target of 80 per cent for women aged 25 to 49, whom doctors say should be tested every three years, and the same proportion aged 50 to 64 who should be screened every five years.

Having heard a range of horror stories over the years of awful smear tests, the notion that women may be able to take a simple urine test instead is a really exciting development.

Not just because it will simplify the cervical check, but also because it will put women in greater control of their own health and in doing so it is bound to increase the number who take the test and ultimately, that will save lives.

Researchers working on developing the new, more “sustainable solution” to the current screening method, say larger trials of the urine test are needed before it can be recommended to the NHS but it’s thought this could happen within the next five years.

It’s now 10 years since Big Brother star Jade Goody died from cervical cancer, aged just 27.

Despite a massive uptake in screening in the months following her untimely death, what was deemed the Jade Goody effect was sadly short-lived.

Subsequent campaigns have also helped increase the number of women attending cervical checks but again, rates have fallen back after a while. Figures show that around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in England and 690 die from the disease. Meanwhile, a study by Queen Mary University of London estimated that 83 per cent of cases could be prevented if women attended their screenings.

For me, a simple urine test is a progressive and transformative method of screening. It’s non-invasive and would provide hope to all of us who’ve had an uncomfortable experience in the past or fear having one in the future.

After all, by following the NHS screening guidelines, women between the ages of 25 and 64 will have to endure at least 12 smear tests in their lifetime (many will have several more when cell abnormalities are found) so the likelihood of having at least one painful experience is extremely high.

And in my personal view even one bad experience is one too many. It’s certainly enough to put thousands of women off from arranging a follow-up check when it’s due.

And that one test could be the difference between life and death.