We’ve all had rogue things inside our vaginas; a penis here, a tampon there, perhaps even an enormous dildo on occasion, but one thing that alarmingly few of us have had inside us is a speculum, more commonly known as “that plastic thing that looks like a duck that they use when you have a smear test”.
This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a week dedicating to raising awareness about the importance of women having their smear test, and debunking myths that the experience is somehow embarrassing or painful. Despite the obvious risks of ignoring those pesky letters from your GP, of the five million women who are invited to a cervical screening each year, one in four do not attend. According to the BBC, the most common reason young women avoid having a smear is because they are embarrassed about the look and/or smell of their nether region.
I turned 25 in October, and briefly, I put off having the test. Despite living in my flat since last March, I wasn’t yet registered with a doctor, and by the time i’d done that, the December rush was on and honestly, I was just too busy. When January rolled around I decided I was being an idiot, and promptly booked an out of hours appointment at a local practice. I was a little nervous beforehand (let’s be honest, we’d all rather keep our private parts away from the prying eyes of strangers), but the nurse put me at ease within seconds. She talked me through the process, asked me to take off my clothes from the waist down, and got on with it. The process itself took around 30 seconds. I’d describe the experience as uncomfortable, and, if i’m being honest, it did hurt a little bit, but nowhere near the pain you risk by not having the bloody test!
I’m still waiting on my results, and I hope they come back normal. Of course there’s a chance they won’t, and i’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but, if anything is wrong, the fact i’ve gone and had a smear almost as soon as I could means the chances of fixing whatever problem might crop up are much, much better.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among young women. Nine women are diagnosed with the disease every single day, and a smear test can prevent 75% of cases. Yet we’re not going, and all because we’re a little embarrassed. Let’s remember that its literally a nurses job to stick that ‘plastic duck thing’ inside you. They have seen thousands of vaginas, the chances are, yours isn’t remotely distinguishable from all the rest, and as soon as you’ve left the room, they’ll forget all about you.
Don’t be a silly goose and put off a test that could save your life. If you’re 25 or over, and haven’t yet had the test, get it booked. It will be a weight off your mind and honestly, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.