Sunday, 11 December 2016

Let’s talk about smear tests

Bell Heart Decoration on Check Scarf


I appreciate when everyone else is in full swing of Christmas gift guides, gingerbread house tutorials and ‘how not to be a dick at your Christmas party’ listicle posts, this is a slight variation, but if my gift to you this year is persuading you to stop ignoring your letter of summoning from the doctor, then I’ll be cheery.

Whilst there’s a fair bit of chat about vagina aesthetics knocking about the internet, I feel like women don’t talk publicly about the importance of smear tests. It’s a bit of a taboo, a TMI, something that gets a little ignored. And you know what? Deciding to book a test is so much more important than your decision about your pubic hair style of choice, that it can’t even be quantified.

This shit is important. It saves lives.

I know that some people will have read the title of this post and cringed a bit. They’ll have felt uncomfortable about someone who they may know IRL talking about an intimate medical examination. If you’re that person, kindly get a grip. In England, the test is offered to women around 6 months before they turn 25 and that makes you a grown up. A grown up who is responsible for their own health and well-being, vagina included.

I was in two minds about publishing a post on this topic as I regularly share my posts on my personal Facebook where I have a lot of friends, family and colleagues, and over on Twitter which is mainly friends, colleagues and the rest of the internet. I mean, do I want people I work with reading a post on my blog where I chat vaginas? Actually yeah, yeah I do. If a bit of a taboo subject entices people in to hear what I have to say then I’m fine with that as this is something that’s important.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why people put it off. Nobody is going to be thrilled at the thought of a stranger examining you intimately, but you know what does fill me with joy? The fact that I’m privileged enough to be offered a proactive screening for the most common cancer in women under 35, for free. Not everyone gets that.

So, for anyone who’s perhaps a bit younger or simply ignoring their letter and sticking their head in the sand, you’ll get summoned to the doctors at the grand old age of 24 and a half for your first smear test.  The test is an internal examination and is used to look for abnormal cells in your cervix, which could potentially become cancerous in the future. After your first test, you’ll have them every three years until you’re 50 and after that, every five years. The point of the test is to check everything is OK and that if it’s not, that it’s being picked up early.

As I’m 25 in April, I was recently summoned to have my first test and that was really my prompt to write this post. Whilst I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, it didn’t even cross my mind to put it off as I’d rather spend five minutes feeling awks than have undetected dodgy cells making themselves at home in my cervix. My Nanna actually died from cervical cancer so in all honesty, putting off a smear test is, to me, downright disrespectful to her memory.

To those who haven’t had a smear before, I can assure you, it’s really not that bad. Whilst you might find it awkward, your doctor doesn’t give a shit, they’re more concerned about getting the test done than they are about what your vagina looks like. And whilst the test itself is a little uncomfortable, it’s not really that painful either. And the results? They come via the post within two weeks.

If you’re sat at home with the letter from your doctor stuffed to one side, please get it out, call the number and make the appointment. If you’ve had a test before and you’re not sure when your next one is due, find out. If you’re a guy sat reading this, ask your mum, your sister, your girlfriend and your BFF when they last had a test and if they’re putting it off, support them in making the appointment.

I know so many people who are too embarrassed and will put off getting it done, and I’ll be blunt in saying this, GET A GRIP. Man the hell up, take your bestie if you need to and be a grown up about it. You may not like it but on this occasion, getting those results is more important than you feeling a bit nervous or embarrassed.

I really hope at least some people found this post helpful and whilst vagina chat might not be what some people are comfortable with... well I’ll be honest and say that I’m not comfortable with the fact that people can have a test but put it off.


As ever, let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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