Smear test; two words that are likely to either scare the bejeezus out of us or fill our minds with anxieties. This short procedure may not be
the best or most enjoyable way to spend a few minutes out of your day (I know I’d rather
be devouring a caramel machiatto,) but it has the potential to save your life.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35,
with around 3000 individuals being diagnosed with the disease every year. Although 75% of cases can be prevented by cervical screening and up to 90% of
pre-cancer cases can be picked up and treated with very little
inconvenience, one in four women aren’t attending their appointments. Our regular smear test can hugely increase our chance of
leading a happy, healthy, problem-free life, but so many of us are
skipping them altogether because of the fear of the unknown; rather worryingly, attendance is at a twenty year low.
With so much stigma, bad information and lack of understanding around cervical smears, it’s no wonder that we’re not having conversations with our loved ones about a potentially life-changing procedure. Over the last five years I’ve been extremely open with my own experiences, documenting a smear test that returned ‘abnormal’ and led to me having to have a procedure to remove the affected area; I was among the lucky ones that managed to pick up those abnormalities before they became cancerous (they were classified as stage four – there is no stage five, you just skip straight to cancer) so I know how important regular smear tests are.
Over the last few years I’ve continued to discuss this often misunderstood area and championed women attending their appointments no matter what; I’ve live streamed my smear, interviewed nurses, blogged my experience and even been on the national news discussing why it’s so vital to take the time out of your day to get tested. And it’s made a real difference: so many of you have been in touch to say you’ve attended a smear as a result, and many more have let me know your anxieties about the results have been settled.
It’s an issue I’m extremely passionate about and one I’ll continue to champion until cervical cancer has been completely eradicated, which is why I’m teaming up with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and have become an ambassador for this incredible movement. As the only UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities, Jo’s Trust was established in 1999 by James Maxwell after his wife Jo passed away from cervical cancer. The charity was set up to fulfil Jo’s wish that every woman affected by cervical cancer could get the support and information they needed: not only do they provide essential information and support, but they campaign for awareness and legislative change alongside more traditional fundraising.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with them in the past, but as it’s reported smear test uptake is at a twenty year low I feel now is the right time to continue that relationship in a more formal capacity and use my channels to spread their good work. I want to break down barriers and start conversations, bust myths and provide as much information as possible – so over the coming months expect to see many posts about your nether regions. I’ll be working with them to encourage companies to sign up to their Time To Test pledge (which calls on employers to ensure their female employees can take time off to attend appointments – more info here) as well as helping to establish fundraising collaborations with key brands; most importantly though, I’ll be regularly talking about all the issues that surround cervical cancer and the HPV virus so that you’re armed with the information you need to start having conversations of your own.
I’ll be tagging all the content I create and starting a handy little tab up in the navigation bar too, so you can refer back to all the information easily – as well as sharing it with your girlfriends. Because you’re as much a part of making it a success and cutting through as I am. If you have a specific question, concern or comment to make then you can always contact me anonymously via email or social media, or go straight to the amazing team at Jo’s Trust via their website.
But let’s get this party started and make a real difference. I hope you’re ready to chat vaginas.
TEXT ‘JOTR01 £5’ TO 70070 TO DONATE
Find out more about Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on their website: www.jostrust.org.uk
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