Dr Kristy Lau offers some reassuring advice on why you shouldn’t delay getting tested.
Cervical Cancer Awareness week in Ireland is next week, January 28 - February 3, and research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust charity in the UK has revealed more than a third (35%) of women are failing to get tested because they feel self-conscious about their body shape.
Other reasons include being worried about the appearance of their vagina (34%) and being concerned about it smelling “normally” (38%). The poll of women aged between 25 and 35 also found a third (31%) admitted they would not go if they had not waxed or shaved their bikini area.
Admittedly, taking off your underwear and chatting about the weather while having your private parts inspected is not an opportunity you’d jump at, however, it is extremely important and only needs to be done every three to five years (depending on your age). You wouldn’t miss a hair, nail or dentist appointment, so there’s no excuse for missing a test that could potentially save your life.
Here, Dr Kristy Lau, NHS-registered and private GP at GPDQ, the UK’s first doctor-on-demand app, offers some reassuring advice on why women shouldn’t worry about getting their smear test.
“We have a serious job to do, and we need all of our attention and focus to be on getting that job done – we don’t have the time of day to be judging the shape of your body, let alone the appearance of your vagina.
“The last thing I would ever want to do is make someone feel awkward, but I really couldn’t care less that my patient is naked. We are professionals for a reason.
“Every patient is different. Whatever your concern is, we have likely seen a lot worse. If you are worried about the smell or appearance of your vagina, just remember, we’ve seen it all before.”
“The test itself is not as painful as you might be led to believe, it can just feel slightly uncomfortable.
“As a woman, I’ve been in this situation and I’m hyper-aware that it can be uncomfortable. As a GP, my main concern is to try and be as gentle and quick as possible for the woman, and part of my job is helping the patient to be as relaxed as possible. The more tense you are, the more uncomfortable the test can be.
“The majority of pain people may experience is often related to anxiety, which causes your muscles to contract, making it more difficult to insert and open up the speculum.”
“Although the appointment lasts approximately 20 minutes, the test itself usually lasts no longer than three minutes. It’s over in a flash.
“During the test, I like to engage my patients in a casual, friendly conversation where I might speak about events from my weekend. This can help take the pressure off the patient and ease the tension, making the test run smoothly. Before they know it, it’s over.
“Some people say they hardly feel a thing during the test. It’s really not a big deal, and procrastination only fuels your anxiety and concerns. It’s best to just get it over and done with.”