This whole project came about after I got a reminder about a missed smear test.
I knew that I’d been sent a letter to get a smear test a while back, but I filed it in my To Do pile, which somehow got cross-referenced into my Hmm, Where’s That Gone pile and the next thing I knew, months had passed. I guess ‘booking a smear test‘ ended up in the same place in my brain as ‘going to a daily yoga class‘. I totally meant to do it, just, you know, not today.
It wasn’t till I got another letter, reminding me that I’d missed my test completely, that guilt and good sense overwhelmed me, and I immediately called to book myself in at the clinic. Why I let this slip is beyond me – I’m smart, I know it’s important to get a regular smear test, I’ve been writing health stories for newspapers and magazines like the Daily Mirror and Glamour for years!
So I decided to start doing some research on smear tests and found out so many things that I wanted to share them. Did you know, for instance, that cervical cancer isn’t believed to be hereditary? In fact in 99.7% of cases, a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) has been shown to be the cause. Around 80% of us come into contact with HPV at some point or another, but the type of HPV which causes cervical cancer is thankfully rare. Healthcare company Roche has developed an HPV test which screens for the high-risk types of HPV, and yes, you can access that test.
Around 1000 women die of cervical cancer in the UK each year, the tragedy is that about 20% of all UK women miss their smear tests completely — but if caught early, cervical cancer is incredibly treatable. The smear test in fact, is a pre-cancer test, aimed at stepping in before cancer even appears… So what’s stopping us? Is it fear of the test? Fear of the result? Or is it just plain fear of being embarrassed?
Let’s be honest. No one ever said that a day that includes the phrase, ‘I’m about to insert the speculum inside you” is going to be a winner, but if you take the test, you get to have a good chance of making sure any abnormal cells that show up in your results don’t develop into cancer. And worst case scenario? It turns out that cervical cancer is actually the most preventable type of cancer, catch it early and you give yourself the best chance of staying healthy.
So I called, I booked, and now I’m going to blog about it. After all, if scatter-brained letter-losing woman like me can get her act together, so can you. I’ll admit it, I’m a bit nervous about the test, but I guess that’s what this is all about… finding out more and sharing that info. Oh – and I know my friend Sara has a brilliant smear test story that needs sharing – so maybe this blog is for that reason alone. I plan to write every week until I get my results, sharing the journey from booking the test, to opening that letter.
FYI: A little full disclosure here. I’m working with healthcare company Roche on this project. The views are 100% mine though.