Updated: Feb 3
Why Do Women Avoid Smear Tests?
Smear tests have made the news many times over the last two years due to less women attending their routine screenings. It was published that 1 in 4 women do not attend their screenings. Women between the ages of 25 - 49 are invited to be screened every three years. The survey published in 2018 showed that the main reason women did not attend is because they felt embarrassed. It also highlighted a lack of understanding from women about the importance of the screenings. The figures are quite shocking - more than 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK, and nearly 900 die annually. My Experience with the Smear Test
I am here to talk about my personal experience with the smear test. I attended mine as soon as I received the letter. I was taken into a room with a female nurse and she explained what she would do. All I had to do was get undressed from the waist down, cover myself with a nice little modesty towel and hook my legs into the stirrups. I’m not sure why they give you the cover but it made me feel better as it meant I couldn't really see her inserting the duckbill like object (speculum). The nurse told me to relax as she lubed up the speculum and slowly inserted it. She then gently opens the speculum so she can get a swab in there (there is no way to sugar coat this). The sensation was weird, the speculum just applied a little pressure to my vaginal walls, while the swab felt like an internal tickle. It did not hurt or cause pain. Then she closed the speculum, took it out and told me to get dressed. It was simple and painless. I understand why women get nervous, your privates are, well, private after all. No one wanted their lady bits inspected, but what you have to remember is that they have seen it all. It’s their job. You don’t get nervous about the dentist rooting around in your mouth looking for a hole in your tooth. That is because it’s their job (I am not talking about a phobia or fear of dentists, I am talking embarrassment). Everyone's vulva’s labias and vaginas are different, you do not need to be self conscious about yours. The health risks certainly outweigh the slight moment of uncomfortableness from going and being tested. Please girls, make sure that you attend your screenings. The thing was, I did have abnormal cells and had to have them removed surgically. They were not close to being cancerous at that stage and the leap from abnormal cells to cancer is cavernous, but left untreated - who knows what would have happened. Put your health above your pride and embarrassment, we all have vaginas and the doctors and nurses are not new to seeing them. Smear Test Figures
Here are a few statistics that we carried out by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: Understanding of cervical cancer and screening 61% of women aged 25 to 35 were unaware they were in the highest-risk group for cervical cancer 37% thought screening did not reduce your risk of disease 24% thought they were not at risk because they were healthy 17% thought smears were important but didn't know why (35% of non-attenders) 11% thought you didn't need a smear if you'd had the HPV vaccine Why women didn’t attend: 35% of all women reported being embarrassed to attend because of their body shape (50% of non-attenders), 34% had concerns over the appearance of the vulva (48% of non-attenders) and 38% were concerned about whether they smelled "normal" (54% of non-attenders) 31% said they wouldn't go if they hadn't shaved or waxed their bikini area 35% wouldn't go if they had to take time off work, 16% wouldn't miss the gym to attend and 14% would rather miss a smear than a waxing appointment 26% said it's too hard to make an appointment 20% would rather not know if something was wrong (34% of non-attenders) 30% of those who had never had a smear said they didn't know where to get the test Yet despite these findings, nearly all women (94%) said they would have a free test to prevent cancer if it was available, highlighting a lack of understanding about the role of screening. Reference: https://www.nhs.uk/news/cancer/one-three-women-dont-attend-cervical-screening-because-embarrassment/