Body Shame Stopping Women Making Important Life Or Death Choice
Each and every day is full of choices. Some are mundane and boring: What should you have for lunch, which show to binge watch on Netflix after work, whether to walk home or take the bus?
Others can boil down to a matter of life and death, like choosing whether to go to your smear test.
One woman has shared an important message explaining the poignant point in the fight against cervical cancer perfectly, at a time when women attending their cervical screenings has hit its lowest in twenty years.
Across the UK, one in three women aged between 25 and 29 years old do not attend their cervical cancer screening and the number is as high as one in two in some areas of the UK, according to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
So, The No Filter Mum took to Facebook to say ‘look after your lady garden’, adding:
And I’m not referring to taming the Brillo pad bush with a bikini wax, I’m talking smears.
Encouraging women to ban the fear of smears, she also advised people get to grips with using the word ‘vagina’ more comfortably.
The mum-of-two, whose name is Jessica Ellis, wrote:
I am yet to meet someone who bounces off the walls with excitement at the thought of heading to their GP so that a complete stranger can stick a plastic instrument up into their vagina on a Monday afternoon.
But it’s important – a bit uncomfortable – but a super quick procedure. It can be a bit uncomfy.
But then so is plucking your eyebrows and most of us manage that. It takes two mins. Literally two mins out of your life can save your life and that is my point.
Spread your legs, spread the word and spread the V love.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and smear tests prevent 75 per cent of cases, so why do so many millennial ladies make a choice which could put them in harm’s way?
Sadly, it’s to do with the ridiculous beauty standards perpetuated by today’s vain society.
A recent poll of young women found a third of women are embarrassed to attend smear tests because of their body shape, the appearance of their vulva and concerns over smelling ‘normal’, with a third of 25 to 35-year-olds admitting they wouldn’t go if they hadn’t waxed or shaved their bikini area.
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Lindsay, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 29, told UNILAD:
I had my first ever smear at 29 because I’d ignored all my previous invitations.
I was too busy with a baby and a small child, working and I didn’t like the thought of having to get naked in front of anyone I didn’t know.
I needed a radical hysterectomy and still struggle with some side effects of treatment today.
Please don’t put off your smear test, the alternative is so much worse.
Lindsay is not alone.
Of the 2,017 women surveyed, a third said embarrassment has caused them to delay attending and high numbers did not prioritise the potentially life-saving test, causing concern body image issues could be putting lives in danger.
Lauren Pratt admitted she didn’t really know what the test was for when she had her first smear at 26, after ‘avoiding it for a year’ and ‘putting the invitation aside’.
Two weeks later I received another letter telling me that I needed to see a consultant as they wanted to discuss the results of the colposcopy.
I was nervous to say the least and terrified at this point as I knew something was wrong. My parents came with me to hospital, we sat down and I was told I had stage 1 cervical cancer.
Lauren, who now has the all-clear from her regular annual check-ups and is expecting her first child, explained she feels ‘extremely lucky they caught the cancer at the most early stage’.
I keep thinking about how I might be in a completely different place if I had put off my smear any longer?
30-year-old Danielle Walker told UNILAD she kept ‘putting off’ her smear test until a nurse pointed out she was overdue.
She eventually attended mid-2017, when the results ‘showed severe abnormal cells’, and she was later diagnosed with stage 1a1 cervical cancer just after returning from her honeymoon.
Danielle explained the waiting was the worst part of this ‘whirlwind’, adding:
You just never think that it will happen to you. They removed 8mm of my cervix and it was quite painful as it was only a couple of weeks since my last biopsy. I also ended up having an infection afterwards and needed antibiotics.
Luckily, this time, the margins were clear, meaning they’d removed all the cancerous cells.
However, I’m still HPV positive so I’m having another check-up in February 2018 which is quite scary as there might be more abnormal cells which might require more treatment?
I’m only 30 and just married, our plan was to have children next but that’s all a bit unsure right now.
Over 3,200 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 890 women lose their lives every year.
The majority of cases are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is treatable – the biggest risk of cervical cancer is not having a smear.
Jilly Goodfellow, Senior Sister and Nurse Practitioner for colposcopy and gynaecology at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust explained, nurses ‘see hundreds of women’ and are dedicated to making women feel ‘comfortable’.
She lent her voice to the ‘Smear for smear’ campaign, saying:
The nurse’s focus is to make women feel welcome, comfortable and ensuring their dignity is maintained, while obtaining a good sample.
We do this by talking to the woman while she’s fully dressed so she’s aware of what’s going to happen, reasons for the smear, when she’ll receive the result and what it’ll mean.
A chaperone is always offered and if they’d like a friend or partner with them this is fine too.
The majority of sample takers are female nurses who fully understand what it’s like to expose the most intimate part of their body to a complete stranger.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 22 – 28 January 2018.