If you haven’t heard, Smear For Smear was a campaign at the end of January this year, aiming to encourage women to go to their smear tests in light of the shocking statistic from charity ‘Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’ that at least 1/4 of women miss their smear test and at a 21 year low in attendance.
This stems from a few places, firstly a misunderstanding of the importance of the screening with ¼ of the women surveyed saying they didn’t feel the need to have one because they felt healthy, and a further 1/3 believing a screening wouldn’t reduce cancer risk. In reality this test is massively important already saving approximately 5000 lives per year by detecting abnormal cells before they even turn cancerous. This life saving test is only takes around five minutes and doesn’t hurt more than a slight discomfort.
Secondly and notably the biggest influence is embarrassment, over body shape, pubic hair, appearance of vulva and obvious discomfort at a stranger interacting with your intimate area. It’s absolutely to okay to feel embarrassed or strange, most people do, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push through it because it really is so important. It’s important to note that when making the appointment you are within your right to ask for a female doctor or nurse to carry out the appointment, should this be a barrier for you getting the test. Remember that nurses and doctors see all kinds of body types – that’s literally their job! And they have a body themselves too, they know how you must feel. If you feel uncomfortable you an always take a friend with you (don’t worry, they can sit at your top end!) And then make a plan to go along with them for their smear test!
If you’re completely unsure what to expect Babylon Health have recently sponsored a range of Youtubers such as Lex Croucher to film their experiences getting a smear test in order to demystify the process. Chloe Delevingne (yes, the sister of Cara Delevingne)and co founder of Lady Garden gynaecological cancer fund even had a smear test live on television, campaigning after a smear test discovered abnormal cells when she was 21.
You may have heard of the recent petitioning of the government to lower the age for smear tests from 25 to 18. This was started by the sadly now deceased mother of four Natasha Sale after she was diagnose with cervical cancer. Surely, it’s best to lower the age and help the most people possible, especially as prevention is so vital to the development of cervical cancer.
If you ever have any concerns don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with you GP for a smear test or just to talk though any worries.