Pearls of Wisdom
by Jinga Mom
January 28th - 3rd Feb was European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and in Ireland, the National Screening Programme (www.cervicalcheck.ie) are promoting ‘The Pearl of Wisdom’. Basically, it’s a big ‘oul fancy campaign to remind you to: GET A SMEAR! “Oh wonderful”, I hear you cry, “just when I thought January couldn’t get any worse, she wants me to round it off with a smear”. I know, smears are right up there with waxing and root canals but since you’re the Jinga of the household and so busy looking after everyone else, I’m going to make sure someone’s minding you! Which means the serious face is coming out and I’m going to hit you with some cold hard facts: each year over 260 women in Ireland are diagnosed with cervical cancer, 70 lose their life. Along with HPV vaccines, regular screening is the most effective way to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. So think, when was your last smear? Last year? Two or three years ago...ten?
The NHS launched a press release recently stating: ‘The Jade Goody Effect’ was over, as patients presenting themselves for routine smear tests had hit a 20 year-low. If you don’t know or need a reminding, Jade Goody was a reality TV star who died on Mother’s Day 2009 from cervical cancer at just 27, leaving behind her four and five year-old sons. Shortly before her death, she revealed she’d had abnormal cells removed from her cervix three times in the past and when she received the results of a 4th smear test, she was too scared to return to the hospital. If she had acted on the advice of medics, her death could have been prevented. By the time she was admitted to hospital again, she’d been having symptoms for three years.
Thanks to her candid testimony, in the aftermath of her death an extra 37,000 women in their 20’s presented themselves to the NHS for their very first smear test and overall the screening programme shot up by 12%, saving countless lives. The media coverage also had a huge knock on effect in Ireland, as our own free screening programme cervicalcheck.ie had launched the previous September and was now inundated with patients looking for appointments. Their latest statistics boast an impressive 79.7% or almost 1.2 million women between the ages of 25-60, presenting for a smear but when it’s comes to saving lives we need to be hitting 100%. So - since you’re probably surfing on company time anyway - go get your pps number....now...I’ll wait... Next, log on to cervicalcheck.ie and see when your next smear test is due. You’re either good for a while, due another...or maybe you’ve hit the ripe old age of 25 and are attending for the first time. Never had a smear before? That’s ok, like most things, the fear is in the unknown, so let me walk you through it...
When you go into the room, you’ll be asked to remove your clothing from the waist down, then to lie back on the examination table. You’ll be guided to bend your knees, put your ankles together and then let your knees fall open. The health practitioner will then put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. (Note: Do not google this image on the internet, it will be a big silver monstrosity much like when you google ‘headache cures’ and an image comes back with Frankenstein getting a lobotomy. Newer speculums are plastic and not as intimidating, actually, just don’t google anything or look down there during the exam, deep breath and eyes to the ceiling girls.) Once the speculum is inserted, the practitioner will then use a thin plastic stick with a small brush at the end, to gently scrape some cells from the surface of the cervix, this sample of cells are then sent away to be examined in a laboratory. The results are used to detect early abnormalities of the cervix which, left untreated, could lead to cervical cancer in the future. Once you receive the result, upload it to your Jinga account, set a reminder for your next test and don’t think about it again until you make your next appointment.
Find the time Jinga’s! Yes it’s a drag but it’s also as mandatory as getting your roots done. The appointment takes 10 minutes, most of which is waiting around to be called in, stripping and getting dressed again. Wanna tip from someone who used to work in a Family Planning Clinic? Wear a flowy skirt or dress to the appointment, hoosh it up and you’ll be in and out in five - you’re welcome ;) From one Jinga Mom to another, mind yourself. x