For this year’s #SmearForSmear (Cervical Cancer Prevention) Week I again worked with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on a couple of pieces, for both The i and Stylist. The first explores the myths and stigma that still surround HPV – the virus that causes the majority of cervical cancer cases – while the second looks at medical innovations that could one day revolutionise the smear test.
‘I’ve been with the same partner for 25 years – how did I get HPV?’ – for The i:
When you’ve been with the same partner for more than 20 years, the last thing you expect to be told is that you’ve got a sexually transmitted virus. But that’s what happened to 47-year-old Lisa Spiller, following a smear test two years ago.
Lisa, who works in customer services, was invited for a smear as part of a free NHS health check offered every five years to over-40s, despite having had a normal smear test result just one year earlier. Within three weeks though, she was told she had a high risk strain of the human papilloma virus (HPV) – the virus which causes virtually all cases of cervical cancer – as well as cervical cell changes, and needed a follow-up appointment.
These medical breakthroughs could transform smear tests forever – for Stylist:
Smear tests are important. We all know it, as you’ll no doubt be reminded as the annual #SmearForSmear campaign kicks off during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (20-26 January). Cervical screening prevents around three quarters of cervical cancers, saving an estimated 5,000 lives each year, but it’s no secret that it can be a pretty grim experience.
At best, smear tests are uncomfortable and undignified – something to grit your teeth and endure once every three years, for the sake of your health. But at worst they can be painful, distressing and traumatic. It’s disheartening, but not altogether surprising then, that year after year around a million people choose not to attend the cervical screening tests that they’re invited to.
IF YOU NEED SUPPORT
Please note that I am NOT a psychologist or healthcare professional. Check out my resources page for details of organisations who might be able to help.
In a crisis, call the free, 24/7 Samaritans helpline on 116 123.
However, if you would like to get in touch about your own experiences, or a story that you’re keen to tell, please feel free to drop me an email.