Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35 and affects 3000 women in the UK every year. Early detection and treatment can prevent up to 75% of these cancers! This is why it is so important to attended the screening test….my smear test……YOUR smear test.
I am a 31 year old doctor…..a doctor training in obstetrics and gynaecology, who should know far better than to miss a smear test. But I am guilty…..I was due my smear test as part of the national screening programme in August 2017 and I still haven’t been for it.
The reason I have missed it is because I’ve been “too busy.” That’s a good enough reason right? And then I sit and think about what I’ve been “too busy” doing to take an hour out of one of those days over the past 5 months to attend my GP surgery and have a test done, which could potentially prevent me from getting cervical cancer and which could save my life.
Well I’ve been too busy doing the important things in life, like cooking and cleaning and washing…..I know I’m not on my own here but at some point you have to take a step back and prioritise what is important. That is what I have now done. I have booked an appointment, which less than ideally, I will attend with my children because it’s during half term. But that’s what being a mum is about sometimes. Doing what you have to do in any way you can.
The charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, surveyed over 2000 British women and found that many don’t attend because they are embarrassed. Embarrassed of their body shape, the look of their genital area and the smell. Well let me tell you, as an obstetrics and gynaecology trainee, I do internal examinations on women almost daily and I can assure each and every one of you that we do not judge anyone.
Our job is to make you feel comfortable and do the examination as quickly and gently as possible, causing you the least amount of anxiety/distress. We don’t look at the shape of your body or look at whether you have waxed or shaved the area, which many women, understandably, seem to be very concerned about. In fact a third of the women surveyed said they wouldn’t go if they hadn’t waxed/shaved their bikini area.
Honestly, this makes no difference to the test results at all. It also makes very little difference to us as the people performing the examination. In fact, if you are conscious of a particular smell or discharge, it’s even more of a reason to attend because a simple swab for infection can be taken at the same time as the smear test.
Let’s be honest, it’s not the nicest examination in the world, but let me reassure you that it’s not the worst either….it shouldn’t be painful but may well be uncomfortable. It really doesn’t take very long…just a couple of minutes in fact (for most people). The more relaxed you keep the muscles down below, the less resistance when performing the test and the less uncomfortable it is. And if it all gets a bit too much, you can ask the nurse/doctor to stop….and they will straight away.
Please, if you’re aged between 25-64 and you’re due or even overdue a smear test, book it today! Or if it’s too late to book it right now, set a reminder and book it in the morning.
- If your anxious about it, then take a friend or your partner….someone, who makes you feel relaxed
- If not having your bikini area waxed/shaved is going to prevent you going for your smear, then book in that all important wax first
- Be prepared for an internal vaginal examination…this means you will need to take the clothing from your waist downwards (including underwear) off – you may want to wear something like a skirt or dress which you can just easily lift up
- Make the time for it… prioritise it over housework, which can wait, even when you think it can’t because your family need you in good health more than they need a clean house
- If you’re a man and you’re reading this, look after the kids or do the housework so your partner can go and get this all important test done. In fact, ask her if she’s up to date with smears, and if not, encourage her to book as soon as possible.
- For more information, visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust