This blog piece may be uncomfortable for some to read. It is about cervical cancer and cervical screening. Before you run for the hills and look for something more fluffy to look at please just give me a few moments of your time. This is a really important issue we need to talk about…and not just us girls! Any males reading? Please don’t turn away either! If there are any females in your life that you love, like or even mildly tolerate, whoever they are, then you should keep reading too and help spread the awareness.
I also know this is not the usual tone for my blog but it’s something that I really feel the need to write about.
It is Cervical Cancer Awareness week and this is a largely preventable disease.
So, ladies, I am going to ask a really personal question…when did you last have your smear test done? Let me ask you another…do you know why we have cervical smear tests done? One more question…do you remember Jade Goody?
I recently joined an online forum/mummy group called The Motherload. I urge you to check them out, it’s a very non judgemental space to talk all things mummy and parenting related. Recently a fair few posts relating to smear tests have popped up and it really struck me how many women do not, have not or will not have it done. That is such a scary thought!
Did you know that every day 2 women loose their battle with cervical cancer, that 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every day and yet 75% of these could have been prevented had smear tests been carried out [Source]. They are some scary figures.
So for those who do not remember Jade Goody she was a reality television personality who frequented the weekly glossy mags and daily tabloids. She was loved and loathed in equal measures but she was certainly a personality. In 2008 she appeared on an Indian reality television show and took ill. It was cervical cancer, she was a mother of two young boys and she was given a terminal diagnosis all because she missed her screening. Like so many women like Jade her story was sad, but hers was televised and it prompted an increase of woman attending their smear tests. It was dubbed the ‘Jade Goody Effect‘. She sadly lost her fight with the disease and died in 2009. She was 27. Her illness and subsequent death was very public but it helped raise awareness. But sadly, nine years later her star is fading and the pull her story had is fading also, in effect their is no more Jade Goody Effect [Source 1, Source 2].
Like so many women she put off having her smear test done. I’m sure she had her reasons and many of us are guilty of this. We get the letter, we either add it to our ever growing to do list or we ignore it. But did you know that by attending your smear test it can detect early changes in cells and this can be treated to prevent cervical cancer, that it can pick up any issues before they become big issues and you’re in and out within a few minutes?
I recently had mine after having the baby and it was painless. I answered a few questions, undressed my bottom half behind a curtain, jumped on the bed and it was over in minutes; two weeks later I received a letter stating my results were all clear…and that’s done for a couple of years. Piece of cake!
Let’s talk about cervical cancer
The trouble with cervical cancer is that there are very few symptoms you may notice in the beginning, which is why smear tests are so important. A high percentage of cases are caused by abnormal cells thought to be caused by the high risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is why the HPV Vaccine was created. Without getting two sciencey there a lot of different types of the HPV but it is groups 16 and 18 that cause the highest percentage of cervical cancer, it effects the basal cells in the cervix which leads to abnormal cells being detected. Abnormal cells left untreated can lead to a diagnosis of cervical cancer. This video explains better than I do! [Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Video].
Symptoms to be aware of:
- Abnormal bleeding during/after sex or between periods
- Post menopausal bleeding (when not on HRT)
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain/discomfort during intercourse
- Pain in the lower back
If you have never been for a smear test then this is a great video to watch. The test, which is to detect abnormalities that may lead to the cancer rather than cancer itself, saves thousands of lives every year and over 90% come back normal. A small sample of your cells are collected and analysed in a lab to look for any abnormalities. You receive your results in the post. A sterile speculum is inserted into your vagina which allows access, the nurse will use a small but soft silicon type brush to collect a sample of your cells from your cervix and it’s done!
Your practice nurse does these all the time, she’s not embarrassed, she doesn’t care how well groomed you are and nothing you can tell her will make her blush. She does care about making sure you’re comfortable, that you attend your screening and that she manages to get your sample processed correctly. But it’s okay to feel anxious, speak to your nurse and she will do all she can to put you at ease. [Source 1, Source 2].
A really good source to read is Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, do some reading, get clued up and spread the word!