I turned 25 in September and no sooner had the celebrations worn off, I received a letter in the post. Far from a birthday card, it was a letter inviting me to book myself in for a smear test.
A smear test, is a medical test to check for any signs of cervical cancer. According to womenshealthclinic.ie, “It is a simple procedure where a doctor or nurse takes a sample of cells from the cervix (neck of the womb) to look for early changes. A smear test can identify cell changes before they become cancer cells. If these cells are not found and treated, they could become cancerous.” The cervix is the area where the top of the vagina leads to the uterus (womb).
Being honest, I wasn’t nervous about getting tested, but a small part of me worried about the results. Thankfully they were all clear. I didn’t find the procedure invasive or uncomfortable, but all women are different.
I lay back and put my feet/heels together, after which, an instrument called a speculum was inserted into my vagina. According to the aforementioned website, “the doctor or nurse will use a small, specialised brush to gently remove a sample of cells from the cervix”.
Smear tests are aimed at women between the ages 25-44, however there is nothing to stop you getting one before this. Women in this age-bracket receive a free smear test every three years.
With that said, a social media campaign has recently been developed entitled #SmearForSmear. The campaign shows women with smeared lipstick in an attempt to raise awareness surrounding cervical cancer, and more importantly attempting to prevent it by going for a smear test.
With so many social media campaigns, it can be easy to be critical of this particular one. However, if the Ice Bucket Challenge and the No MakeUp selfies have taught us anything, it’s that we should never underestimate the power of a good social media campaign.
Undoubtedly it will be prone to criticism, however look at the recent #CashFace campaign raising awareness about mental health. Like with many mental health problems and illnesses, cervical cancer can go undetected. If smearing some lipstick raises awareness and reminds women to book themselves in for a smear test, then that’s fantastic.
Here at Lifestyle we try and educate as best we can. Please do not be afraid to go and see your Doctor, particularly about anything to do with your nether regions. As women, we check our breasts for any lumps and bumps, or anything that’s not quite right. It can be so easy to forget that our vagina is another important and delicate area to keep an eye on.
If you’re uneasy or unsure about anything, please go and see your Doctor. Most college health centres have an emergency clinic. I promise you, while you may think the idea of having someone examine you ‘down there’ is embarrassing or unnerving, there is nothing to worry about. Doctors and Nurses are lovely, and they have seen it all before. Also, they will be the best form of reassurance.
#SmearForSmear, and don’t forget to book yourself in, or even go for an STD check. I nominate my fellow Eds, Sally O’Gorman and Áine O’Connell.
Photo: ritaora/ Instagram