I had another blog intended to be published today but I was driving home from dropping Devon at nursery and on the news popped a story about smear tests and how they are looking at a DIY test because the current participation rate is at a 21 year low! With 1 in 4 eligible women failing to be have their smear test when offered! To me this is an obscenely high number of women failing to have a test that is not only free but could also potentially save your life. Maybe it is because I have watched 3 close family members battle cancer or I am of the Jade Goody generation who watched as a brave young woman fought and lost her battle to Cervical cancer leaving 2 young boys behind, that I would never contemplate missing a smear test. So I thought todays post has to be about smear tests and if one person reads this and books theirs then it is post well written! There is also no point in me angry typing, it needs to be an informative piece full of evidence and myth busting so here goes –
In terms of sexual freedom, equality and world standing women are in the best position they have ever been. Yes there is a long way to go but we have never had it so good, the women’s rights movements before us would be turning in their graves at the thought of us turning our backs on a test designed to save our lives. So why is Cervical Screening at a 21 year low? 21 years ago, pre millenium women were really making waves, we had new role models in the shape of Rachel from Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Carrie Bradshaw and the Spice Girls, strong independent women were leading the way and Girl Power was a social and cultural movement. We were lead to believe we could be anything and achieve anything! But with the rise in women role models and our sexual liberation why has there been a downturn in up takes of the Smear Test?
Embarrassment – A smear test should be as routine as going to see the dentist, after all it is a professional you are visiting who has performed hundreds if not thousands of the procedures. But figures suggest that in some areas 1 in 2 women delay or refuse a smear test due to embarrassment. Could it be that in todays ‘perfect’ world we have created a culture where the average woman is to ‘ashamed’ to have a smear test because she is to scared to reveal herself to a stranger as she may not look ‘perfect’. It seems obscene that in an age where women are willing to stripe off naked to be analysed toe to head on national television for entertainment that there is section of society to ’embarrassed’ to have a private smear test. If Naked Attraction has taught us anything it is that no two women are the same especially when it comes to vaginas, they are all shapes and sizes, shaved, un – shaved and all different skin tones. Please please please ladies do not be put off having a smear out of embarrassment, there is absolutely nothing your nurse would have not seen before and the way you look is perfectly normal. It is the women who are perpetuated as the female ideal who are not ‘normal’.
Fear – Screening DOES prevent cancer! It is not a test to see if you have cancer it is a test to check for abnormal cell changes in your cervix which left untreated, could turn into cancer, it also checks for human papillomavirus (HPV) – some types of HPV can lead to cell changes in your cervix and cancer. Just because you feel healthy does not mean changes are not happening. If you have a result that comes back abnormal do not be afraid with most people picking up HPV at some point in their lives, it does not mean you have cancer or will develop cancer, it may just require monitoring or it may require treatment. It is one of those things that is definitely better to know about and manage than to ignore and pretend will go away. Early detection DOES save lives.
Time – I am not going to pretend that every doctors surgery is perfect, many are far from it with appointments running late and long winded booking systems, but this is your life and your life is definitely worth taking the morning of work for. The whole appointment takes 10 minutes with the actual procedure taking less than 5. It is quick!
Pain – A smear test does not hurt, I would much rather have a smear test than a filling. Yes it is uncomfortable but relax and deep breath and it will be over quicker. Take a friend, or a family member for support. Talk to the nurse about the weather or her day anything to take your mind off what is happening and before you know it, its over and done with and you don’t have to go back for 5 years.
I am sure everyone has their reasons for not attending a smear test and while they might seem valid to you the most important factor is your life. Between 2014-2016 there were 3192 new cervical cancer cases with 852 deaths, there is a 63% survival rate. According to Cancer Research UK 99.8% of cervical cancer is PREVENTABLE and that is partly through attending a cervical screen test! Having many close family members battle various types of cancer I have decided cancer is a roll of the dice, you can be as healthy and cautious as you like but it could still pick you, with cervical cancer being so preventable don’t turn your back on the very quick, routine test that could one day save your life!
For more information head to – Jo’s Trust