Embarrassment makes women avoid smear tests, charity says

Embarrassment makes women avoid smear tests, charity says
From BBC - January 21, 2018

Young women are avoiding getting smear tests because they are embarrassed by the look and smell of their pubic areas, a survey suggests.

The charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed 2,017 British women.

A third said embarrassment caused them to delay getting a smear test, which can prevent 75% of cervical cancers.

The charity said cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, yet almost two-thirds of those surveyed were not aware they are most at risk.

A total of 220,000 British women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities each year.

'Naive and uneducated'

Lauren Bennie said she put off having her smear test until the age of 30 because she was "naive, embarrassed and uneducated about the female body".

"So many silly things stopped me from going for my smear test," she said.

"I worried about the nurse being able to take one look at my bits and have some magic skill to be able to determine the number of sexual partners I'd had. I thought a lot about what kind of underwear and clothes to wear."

While at university in Dundee, she thought she might know the medical students who could be asked in to observe.

"I did not know it at the time, but the embarrassment I felt around going for a smear was actually doing my body damage," said the 33-year-old Glaswegian.

WATCH: Is there really scraping in a smear test? The truth about what it really involves

When she did eventually get a test she was told she needed further examination.

"It was when I was faced with words such as dyskaryosis (abnormal cells), high-grade and colposcopy that I realised the severity of the situation."

Hospital results later confirmed she had severely abnormal cells that were pre-cancerous on her cervix.

"It was terrifying," she said. "I felt angry rather than sad that I had left it so long to go for a smear test."

Lauren's story is not unique.

'Waxed or shaved'

The survey found young women are embarrassed to attend smear tests because of their body shape (35%), the appearance of their vulva (34%) and concerns over smell (38%).

Smear test 'saved my life'


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