I was a bit shocked to hear yesterday that, since the ‘Jade Goody’ effect (the ex-Big Brother contestant died of Cervical Cancer in 2009, aged just 27) has worn off, numbers of women reporting for regular cervical screening (the good old smear test to you and me) has dropped dramatically. Figures show that currently only 80% of eligible women – including me – report for testing which is actually pretty fantastic (give yourselves a round of applause), but this means that 20% of women in the eligible age bracket (loosely 25 – 64) are not.
I’ve written before about taking charge of your own health by regularly examining your breasts and the same advice applies here. By not attending a cervical screening test you could be actively contributing to your own demise and you really don’t want that. I can fully acknowledge that smear tests are not comfortable – I dislike them intensely, but I refuse to succumb to a disease that is so easily detected.
I think I’m lucky really as, despite my dislike of the process, my GP surgery has a brilliant nurse who never fails to make an uncomfortable process just a bit more comfortable. Ok, I’ll admit that having had two kids (and a pretty hefty repair after the second one – ahem) that really there’s no part of my body that has not been poked and prodded, so five minutes extra every three years or so doesn’t really make much of a difference!
So, how can I encourage you to go along and get yourself tested? I can’t tell you the test is not uncomfortable; it is, but only for a minute and it isn’t actually painful as such. I can’t tell you it isn’t embarrassing; it can be – having a stranger rummage in your nether regions is never going to be a breeze. I can, however, tell you that it COULD mean you are spared years of Cervical cancer treatment and a premature death. Don’t those other things seem a bit less significant now?
If you’re properly registered with a GP you’ll get a letter every three years (25-49 year olds) or every five years (50-64 year olds) telling you your test is due and that you should make an appointment with your surgery for any day between day 10 and day 18 of your monthly cycle. Once it’s done, it’s done and you’ll get a letter telling you your result. The vast majority of women will have normal test results, but if you did get a letter saying you needed further investigation, you could congratulate yourself as Cervical cancer is so much easier to treat if caught early.
I hope I’m preaching to the choir and I don’t like to beg, but Please, PLEASE, PLEEEEEASE don’t ignore your next letter. Please take some time out of one day of your life to make sure you still have a life when your next letter is due.