I have just had the letter. The letter telling me that I am due my next smear test. Of course, it did not make me do a little jig and run around the room excitedly, but I did ring the surgery a few minutes later to book the appointment. A few years ago, I have to admit that I would have put it off, a few weeks, a few months even but not anymore. These days, I want the test and as soon as possible.
Cervical cancer is on the rise in the UK. That is a sad fact of truth. More than half of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer are aged 45 and under. Mothers, daughters, sisters friends.
What is even more shocking is that in the UK, the number of women taking regular smear tests is at an all-time low. Why? I genuinely don’t understand.
Regular smear tests have been proven to save lives. Save lives. If cervical cancer is caught in the early stages, there is an almost 100 percent chance that treatment will be effective. That is why regular screening is so important as cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer can be picked up in the very earliest of stages.
I do understand why people don’t get excited about these tests, I can even understand why some people worry about them. Smear tests are not very pleasant. I am the first to admit that. I did say quietly to someone a few years ago that I had to go for a smear test and how much I didn’t like them. She turned to me and said loudly, ‘Of course you don’t like having smear tests, but they can save your life so man up and get on with it.’ There were a few uncomfortable laughs around us and everyone looked away.
Her words certainly stuck with me and she was dead right. Firstly, who does like a smear test but it shouldn’t matter. It is a couple of minutes of feeling a bit uncomfortable that can save your life. Secondly, she was happy to talk loudly about smear tests. Again right. Why should we feel uncomfortable about talking about it? We should be all talking about it, shouting about it if it leads to one life being saved because it made someone change their mind about having a test. It is a big deal to get the test done but the test itself should not be a big deal. We should be doing it without even giving it a second thought.
So, if like me you know that you are due for your next smear test or maybe you have missed a test and need to book an appointment, go and do it. While you are there, make sure that you pass the message on to friends, family members, your daughters. We should all be talking about smear tests, telling each other how important they are and how they are not anything to feel embarrassed about. It might save your or somebody else’s life.
This image is from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, a charity set up to raise awareness and try to help prevent cervical cancer.