Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lady Test

About a month ago I got The Dreaded Letter. The one where you look at it in disbelief and cannot actually believe it's been two years since you last went and got The Lady Test. You know the one.

Yes, I mean a Pap Smear.

So I gritted my teeth and tried not to think about it too much and went and got one done. My GP is a lovely South African man who really doesn't bat an eyelid at anything, so it was fairly ok. There's always going to be a level of embarrassment and discomfort I believe, but I try to just build a bridge.

Today I went back and got my results - there was a moment of concern as he took a few seconds longer than was entirely necessary to read the pathology report, but I got the Big All Clear. Huzzah!

Unexpectedly, my dear doctor then started on a lecture about remembering to come back for my next test. I was thinking "Oh come on, I've only just got over this one, it's two years until I want to think about it again!". But he patiently explained that although each state has a register of Pap Smears that keeps a record of when you have a test and the results, very rarely there can be a problem the reminders aren't sent.

I didn't hear about this, but apparently recently it was reported that there was a failure of the Queensland system and there were almost 1000 women who failed to receive letters warning them about abnormal pap smear results.

This is why it's so important to take some personal responsibility for your own health, and get the test done regularly, whether you're reminded to or not. AND follow up to get your results! Women aged 18 to 70 who have been sexually active are advised to have pap smears every two years to detect early changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer.

So - don't put it off. Don't wait to be reminded. Get yourself tested every two years. If you don't know when your last one was or you have had a change of address, you can contact the register in your state.

I know some women find this test not only uncomfortable, but downright painful. I would encourage them to speak to their GP frankly and find out if there is anything that can be done to make the test easier for them.

Do you have any tips for reducing the emotional and physical uncomfortableness of a Pap Smear?

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