10 June 2013

The Red Lippy Project: Raising Awareness of Cervical Screening

I bet you didn't expect me to return after my little absence to talk about your cervix, but here I am! This week, 9-15th June, is Cervical Screening Awareness Week and I want to contribute to the Red Lippy Project's attempts to shatter the taboo around smear tests.

If you're over 25 in the UK, you'll be invited for a free cervical screening every three years. It used to be over 20s who were eligible, but the law changed in the last 10 years due to the small numbers of cervical cancers recorded in the under 25s and the potential worry abnormal results could cause to this age group, whose bodies are still changing. Now, from the ages of 25-49, screenings will be offered every 3 years, with tests every 5 years for those 50 and older.
Estimates say that cervical screens save around 5000 lives each year, but 20% of those eligible for a smear test don't attend them, with 25-29 year olds being the worst offenders. This is due to fear and misinformation, as the secretive nature of cervical cancer means people are often uncomfortable discussing it.

This is something I can definitely relate to. I was eligible for my first screening before the change in legislation so, at 20, off I trundled to the GP's surgery for my smear test. I was terrified. I sort of shyly approached my mum, who was reassuring, but I was too scared to ask any really specific questions. I went to my appointment full of nerves and wearing jeans, which I was later to realise was a rookie error. And... it was fine. I've heard the horror stories, as I'm sure you have too, but in all honesty there were no issues. Yeah, it was a bit awkward having a stranger poke and prod at me down there, but it wasn't painful at all and lasted less than five minutes. For me, the worst bit was trying to undress with one hand clutching a sheet around my waist. A word of advice; when you go for your test, you may want to wear a skirt/dress to avoid being naked from the waist down aside from your socks, as happened to me.

Anyway, enough of the oversharing (and sorry if I've given any of you nightmares) The point of all this is, cervical cancer and cervical screening is criminally under-discussed. There are adverts for erectile dysfunction services on TV all the time, but when it comes to something that can be a matter of life and death it's shied away from because of the anatomy involved. Some awareness was raised with the death of Jade Goody, but that has started to slip from public consciousness now, so more must be done to bring cervical cancer back into the public domain.
Caroline Muhlich, founder of the Red Lippy Project wanted to create a visual platform to allow open discussion of cervical cancer and underline the importance of taking control of your health. The Project encourages women to wear red lipstick for a week as a way of raising funds for the charity, as well as aiming to break down the stigma surrounding cervical cancer by encouraging discussion and sharing information between friends, family members and everyone with a cervix; it really could help save a life.

So, please, pop on your best red lipstick, talk to someone about cervical cancer and don't be ashamed about something which could help save your life or the life of someone you love.

Usually I ask you about your experiences but I don't think you'll really want to talk about your cervixes with me; I totally understand! So instead, I'll ask about your favourite red lipsticks. (though if you have a story or opinion on cervical screening, please feel free to share.)

You can donate to The Eve Appeal and help fund their research here.

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