I sort of struggled with the introduction to this post. I started it about three times, and just couldn't find the words! ! But I knew that irrespective of that, I had to write this post! (Isn't it interesting how that in itself became the intro!?)
Don't laugh, or think "how could she not!". But I'd never heard of a cervical screening till pretty recently and possibly as a result of moving to the UK. I guess that's definitely one plus about living in these parts. There's so much handy information about. (Not quite sure if that makes up for the cold though! Brrrrr).
So how did I then hear of it?
Letters! Personal letters addressed to me with words similar to "now that you're over 25, it is advised that you to attend the cervical screening test at your local hospital". I read up the letters thinking I really should get this thing done. But procrastination and the ever available excuse of "work is really busy at the moment" kept getting in the way!
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to be a responsible adult woman (now aged 28) and schedule my screening. Because whether those excuses are true or not, our health is really important.
I was also really curious about how the entire session would go, and here are the three highlights!
1. Too Much (Scary) Information?
I know doctors and nurses have a responsibility to educate us on whatever procedure is being done as well as the possible outcomes, options and statistics. But at some point in the 15 minute conversation, I began to feel like surely this is too much information for a routine test? The nurse definitely went on in detail about how many women are affected by cervical cancer and how it's more common than people think. She also explained how a small brushlike device is used to pick up some cells which are then examined under a microscope for any irregularities. I started to feel a bit overwhelmed and thought, 'can we just get it over & done with?'
2. The Actual Poke...
Judging by the nurse's words and the thought of an instrument being used down there, I really did think this was going to be painful! And I was mentally thinking of happy distracting thoughts. But it wasn't! It was pretty much a quick poke (about 3 seconds) and out. I may have a high threshold for pain (physical and not emotional. Emotional pain makes me cry!) but I'm pretty sure most people will agree that this isn't painful. So if that's what's keeping you, fear not. Get your screening done today!
3. Child-birth Thoughts!
Well, here's the final thing! It's probably the position we have to adopt for the screening, but it sure did make me thing of the entire process of childbirth. And if you have not gone through this process before, it might make you think about it too! We can only hope that the level of pain is similar to the screening... aka none existent!
Ok that's how my experience went. Now to some basic facts:
- Cervical screening is not a test for diagnosing cervical cancer, but rather to check the health of the cervix which is the lower part of the womb.
- The screening also tests for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) - a pretty common virus which if left untreated could lead to cervical cancer.
- The HPV has no symptoms and can be transmitted during sex.
- Cervical screening does not pick up every abnormality of the cervix but is able to prevent 75% of cervical cancers.
- Screening shouldn't be done during periods, so plan properly. It also typically needs to done every three years so you can tick that off your to-do list for 2017 and not have to get it done again till 2020 - which seems so far away right now!
You already know from my about page that I'm a lawyer not a doctor, but I hope this helps to de-mystify the concept of cervical screening. I appreciate I got lots of reminders for what was technically a free service and it's probably much harder for people who have to pay for this and are not reminded of it.
But please, do make an effort to find out how you can get this done. In the UK, it's free for people ages 25 - 64, but there's been a recent petition for the lower limit of the applicable age group to be 18.
So if you're over 18, you should be checking!
January is cervical screening awareness month, so voila - my bit is done! Get screened ladies.
If you've had one done, how was your experience? If you haven't, why (we won't judge you!)
pS: And just out of curiousity - what's the most intrusive medical test you've had to do? A friend had to have a rectal examination as part of a job interview. He didn't find it funny that it was carried out by a pretty female doctor who he would ordinarily have asked out for a drink, had they met in better circumstances! After such intrusion, he couldn't summon up the courage to see her again! That's funny!
ppS: Here's some more girl talk - how and why to check your breasts + helpful images. And FYI, why we celebrate International Womens Day!