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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Why I'm Excited for My First Cervical Screening

For a lot of women, a cervical screening (otherwise known as a smear test, but that doesn't sound nice) is reason for worry, fear, dread... For me, the invitation to come for my first screening marked the end of my campaign to have one given to me before my 25th birthday.

What scared me the most was that my mum has had to have more frequent screening over the past ten years due to finding precancerous cells during a routine smear. Now, to be fair, I didn't actually win my battle. I have been informed before that I would most likely get the invitation 6 months or so before my actual birthday. But, as soon as I received my letter I got on the phone and had myself booked in for this week, the earliest appointment I could get.

My invitation to have my first cervical screening

Maybe some of you reading think I am crazy. I promise you I am not. Although there have been a lot of women who come out with horror stories of smear tests, I believe these experiences to be of the minority. Having had two children, I am already at a slightly higher risk of cervical cancer. I would rather endure a few minutes of discomfort, even pain, just to ensure that I won't be leaving my kids without a mother.

Other things that can increase your risk of cervical cancer include smoking, having the HPV, Herpes or Chlamydia sexually transmitted infections, not using condoms, having had sex from a young age, your ethnicity, social class and, worryingly, if you are on the pill. Having been on the pill since the age of 15 (therefore, for more than 5 years), my chances of cervical cancer are apparently already doubled.

The fact that I have had two children means I feel rather invincible about the apparent discomfort of having a smear test. I have had both children, naturally, as well as a total of 3 stretch and sweeps towards the end of my pregnancies. I am also a safety first kind of girl and in the past I have had tests at GUM clinics which the nurses said would be similar to a smear test. Well, back then I hadn't had one of those, but it comforts me to know whatever this screening will bring, it should be no worse than something I have been through before. Even if it were a horrible experience, like I say, I would much rather go through it than the alternative.

With statistics showing that many women are refusing to attend routine screenings, and some having never been, I am hoping that if my post on my 'excitement' for my first smear at least helps one more woman pick up that phone and book herself in,  I will have done some good. The death of Jade Goody a few years ago when she was just 27 and with two young sons shocked the nation, but there are still women dying from cervical cancer. At the time of her death, the UK government had promised to review the current age with a view to lowering it from 25. To this date, four years on, this has not been done. In fact, in Scotland and Wales, where cervical screening is done routinely from 20 years of age, this will actually INCREASE to 25 in 2015!

Taken from Cancer Research UK Website:

"Almost 3,400 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. Overall, 2 out of every 100 cancers diagnosed in women (2%) are cervical cancers. But it is the most common cancer in women under 35 years old.

Around 4 million women are invited for cervical screening each year in England. About 1 out of every 100 women screened have a moderate or high grade abnormality (1%). Early treatment can prevent these cervical changes developing into cancer."

Once I was told not to be a statistic in relation to my first pregnancy, not relative, but I have taken that advice on board in other areas of my life and I will be making sure I am not at risk right now and have my screening. I urge other women to put aside any fears they might  have and take the plunge.

Meanwhile, even though I have now reached the age where I am able to have a smear, I will be continuing to fight for the right to have screenings at a younger age, especially where there has been a history of precancerous or cancerous cells in female relatives, or being more at risk.

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