Smear tests are back in the limelight again and not for a good reason. Those attending their 3 yearly test is decreasing and are at their lowest for 20 years, with 1 in 4 women ignoring their letters inviting them to go for this life-saving check– this drops to 1 in 3 for those aged 25-29.
After Jade Goody very publicly discussed and lost her battle with cervical cancer in 2008, her legacy had a positive effect and the UK saw 400,000 women attend their screening. So what has happened since then to explain this drop? Perhaps the fact that the new generation of girls who are now turning 25 may not remember or even know about Jade’s story? Have we stopped discussing it enough? Are we even more shy about these type of procedures than ever before? Or are women just far too busy to take some time to focus on themselves? I’m not sure what the answer is but what I do know is that far too many women are needlessly risking their lives.
My First Test…
Believe me, I know how awkward a smear test can be. When I was first called up for mine the age of screenings was 20. I was even younger than you have to be now and extremely shy and nervous about going in to have it done.
However, I had grown up with cancer affecting my family so I had first-hand experience of witnessing what this awful disease could do. I was more than willing to have this plastic brush thing stuck up my fru-fru for all of a few moments to ensure that I wouldn’t have to go through everything that my Mum had gone through for almost 15 years. So, off I went, alone, coz you know I was all independent and stuff (cacking it underneath the facade!) I had no idea what to expect– the days before I googled everything under the sun– and maybe the lack of chat on social media helped? No one telling me how much it may/may not hurt, no one saying how embarrassing it is, no one warning me what not to do etc. I just went in, listened to the nurse, spread my legs and thought of anything but the things that were being done down below! And do you know what? I came away OK. I wasn’t left in pain, I hadn’t died from embarrassment, I hadn’t farted in her face and the nurse, who had carried them out for over 20 years, was, of course, not at all fazed by seeing yet another vagina.
My Mum hadn’t had cervical cancer, hers started as breast cancer (which spread over the years and finally took her life at the age of 48). The difference with breast cancer was that she could tell something was wrong because a lump appeared. She could get that checked out and treatment followed quickly after. With cervical cancer, your cells could be changing without you having the foggiest. Your first signs (usually bleeding after sex or outside of your period, pain, discomfort) may be too late as these tend to display once the cancer is in an advanced stage. This is a more silent type of cancer and the longer you don’t know, the larger the risk to your life.
The ‘V’ Word…
I know we all find it hard to talk about our vaginas. Those private areas that should never be called by their proper name– is it a vagina, a vajay-jay, a fru-fru, a lady garden? Oh, I just don’t know!… IT DOESN’T MATTER!! you have one, every woman has one and it needs looking after regardless of what you wanna call it! Oh, and why do we seem to think that every problem down is classed as ’embarrassing’? We need to start looking beyond this.
Your smear test only happens every 3 years, it is carried out by a woman (usually) and yes, it may be a little uncomfortable but IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE!!
It’s Really Not That Bad…
If you are a Mum you would have had far worse done and much more looked at, poked at, studied and discussed by a group of medical staff during pregnancy and childbirth, a smear is nothing compared to this! If you are a young girl I get that you may think you are far too young to get cancer and you often feel as though you’re invincible at that age but women as young as 18 have been diagnosed with this disease and it really can happen to anyone.
If you have your smear and the results come back normal, great, fantastic, that’s that over with for another 3 years. If it comes back as abnormal and things are caught in time you can have these abnormal cells treated by lasering or removal before they develop any further. You can read about these procedures in further detail on the Cancer Research website.
Cancer is indiscriminate, cancer is a bitch, cancer can strike at any time and cancer destroys lives… believe me, I know.
So, go on, what are you waiting for? Get that smear test booked in.
To find out more about the #smearforsmear 2018 campaign which runs from Monday 22nd January-Sunday 28th January, please visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust #smearforsmear
Thank you to my beautiful friends, readers and bloggers who modelled for the images created in this article.