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24 Jan 2018

babylon briefing: embarrassment makes women avoid smear tests

Dr Elise Dallas, one of our babylon GPs, shares her thoughts and advice following the news that women are avoiding their smear tests

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Dr Elise Dallas, one of our babylon GPs, shares her thoughts and advice following the news that young women avoid getting smear tests because they are embarrassed by the look and smell of their pubic areas

How did you react when you saw the news that women were avoiding their smear tests due to embarrassment?

I wasn’t surprised at all. I’ve seen a lot of cases where women have missed their smear test, and it’s often for reasons like those discovered in the survey: they think it doesn’t relate to them, that they are worried they smell down there, they think it will hurt, or they are just embarrassed. During health consultations, we get alerted if a woman is due her smear test and make a conscious effort to continually remind them to book. I will often be opportunistic and ask them to do the smear test within that appointment if I have time.

When you don’t have time, how do you try to encourage them to go for their smear test?

I try not to preach; I show them that I understand why they are not coming and to reassure them. I explain that cervical cancer is usually a slow growing cancer so, if we pick up the cells early, we can act before it develops. We’re incredibly lucky to have such an excellent screening test for cervical cancer yet women skip them because they think it will never affect them. I remind my patients that anyone who has had sex is at risk; I reassure them by telling them that all women must get them done – even us women doctors. I know it’s not a pleasant test, but it’s quick and only slightly uncomfortable and, ultimately, can save your life.

You seem to feel strongly about it?

Absolutely. I’ve seen situations where it has gone wrong; situations where it ‘did actually happen’ to the lady who thought it never would so never went for her test.

Finally, what advice would you give young women reading this?

Cervical cancer strikes young women too; in fact, the average age is late twenties, so it’s important you go and get your smear test. You might be embarrassed, but we’re professionals, and it’s certainly preferable to the alternative.

See the initial article here.

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