Women's Health Wednesday June 17, 2015

Why Are So Many Women Still Skipping Their Smear Tests?

Cervical Screening Awareness Week is upon us and yes, there IS a week for absolutely everything. But rather than the pointlessness of Steak and Blowjob Day, or May the Fourth Be With You, this is some awareness we can get on-board with.

In fact, it's quite apparent that Cervical Screening Awareness Week is needed, as 22% of us STILL don't go for our tests. What's the excuse? Well, we have quite a few of them actually. These are some real life situations women have faced.

I'm here to judge your life choices as well

'Certain doctors don't seem to understand the terms 'impartial' or 'unbiased'. I have a surprising amount of friends who have been openly judged on their lifestyle choices during a cervical screening – as if you weren't uncomfortable enough. From rants about using contraception to the youth of today getting laid far too much, it's really not what you need to hear with the wind blowing through your area and a plastic device looming ever closer…'

This might hurt a bit

'Don't get me wrong; this is a good statement to make. It avoids any nasty surprises, never mind the fact that it looks weirdly like a hair curler and the shock of coldness in a private area. However, why wouldn't you put a bit of lube on there? My doctor decided lubrication wasn't necessary and some heavy spotting and soreness followed.'

TMI about me

'Last time I went, the nurse was so busy telling me about her grandkids, she said nothing about what to do (although I had had some past experience, it's hardly a regular occurrence or one you wish to remember in great detail). Then she just kind of waved me over to the bed and didn't set me at ease at all. And after it was over, she whipped the thing out and said, "Oops, that's what the modesty blanket is for!" I thought I was bleeding to death.'

It could be c*****

'Yes, that word you're never suppose to utter unless completely sure. I had to have a second smear test based on one that came back abnormal. Well, the doctor I had put such an emphasis on finding possible "cancerous cells", I got myself a bit worked up to say the least. I got to the hospital, burst out in tears on the table, legs splayed oh-so graciously by which point the doctor was so confused, he asked for a nurse to come in and hold my hand.'

Silence isn't golden

'Medical professionals aren't there for their resounding social skills. They are there to make our bodies better, but many don't realise how invasive these procedures can be. A little small talk and tact can go a long way when a smear test is involved. My doctor not only didn't say anything about the weather or what I did for a living, but nothing at all. Oh, expect one thing – "do you want to see the inside of your cervix?" No mate, I really don't.'

Why cervical screening is so important

Whilst these horror stories make the test sound like a nightmare for your little lady, the vast majority of cervical screenings are straightforward, quick and involve little pain. It's important to remember cervical screenings are necessary – let's remove the stigma!

The NHS cervical screening is available for women between the ages of 25 to 64. For women aged 25 to 49 this is every three years, whilst 50 to 64 is every five years - a small and infrequent bit of discomfort that will ensure you're ticking away nicely. After all, only 25% of women show abnormal results with the majority of these being no cause for alarm in the slightest.

Many campaigns – Smear for Smear, for example – highlight the importance of getting yourself tested. Not only will a cervical screening monitor your health, but this simple procedure saves 5,000 lives a year here in the UK, with a 75% cervical cancer prevention rate in women in their 50s and 60s.

Booking a test

The NHS sends out letters every time you're due a test, so you never have to remember. More often than not, you can head to your local surgery and book with a doctor specialised in performing cervical screening, with all future information being provided in the letter.

In addition, young girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine to protect against cervical cancer. Young girls up t the age of 18 can request the vaccinations. There are hundreds of strains of HPV with only a couple containing the cells prompting cervical cancer, however these two vaccinations can help prevent cervical cancer for up to 20 years.

Sources http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/jan/30/smear-for-smear-campaign-leaves-many-uncomfortable http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/hpv-human-papillomavirus-vaccine.aspx

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