The Sad Reason Why One-Third Of Women Are Skipping Pap Smears


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By Korin Miller; Photograph by

The dangers of cervical cancer are real.

When you get a Pap smear, everything below the belt is on display. And, while that’s not exactly fun, it’s just a known tradeoff of staying on top of your vaginal health.

Unfortunately, some women are so uncomfortable about being that exposed that they’re avoiding or delaying getting their Pap smear, according to a new survey from British cancer charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, per the . The charity polled 2,017 British women and uncovered some disturbing findings. Among other things, a third of women said they wouldn’t go to their Pap appointment if they hadn’t waxed or shaved their pubic area. The survey also found that young women are embarrassed to have their tests because of their body shape (35 percent), how their vulva looks (34 percent), and the way they smell (38 percent).

Watch: The 7 Scary Conditions That Pap Smears Don’t Test For

Here’s the problem: Pap smears test for cervical cancer and pre-cancerous cells that could lead to cervical cancer. If doctors catch it early, they can intervene and drastically improve the odds you’ll be okay. Basically, you’re rolling the dice with your health if you purposefully miss a Pap—and nearly two-thirds of women who participated in the survey weren’t even aware of that fact.

That prompted Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to launch the  which encourages women to post photos on social media of themselves with smeared lipstick to raise awareness about the importance of getting your Pap smear.

Watch: The 411 On Why You Shouldn’t Delay Your Pap Smear Screening

According to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should start getting Pap smears at age 21 and get another one every three years until they hit age 65. Women who are 30 years and older can also opt for a Pap test HPV test every five years instead of going every three years. (However, if you have abnormal Pap results, you may need to get screened more often.)

Watch: The 10 Sexual Health Tests Every Woman Should Tick Off Her To-Do List

Of course, this survey was conducted in the U.K. — but it’s not far-fetched to think that women in South Africa might share some similar views. Just know this: Your doctor doesn’t care how you look down there. “You don’t have to shave your legs or wax your vulva,” Draion M. Burch, a gynae and sexual health advisor for Astroglide (an American Lubricant brand), previously told Women’s Health. “I’m not paying any attention to those things.” And, if you have any concerns about how you smell down there, talk to your doctor. They can help assure you that everything is totally normal down there or, if something is off, take steps to fix it.

Bottom line: Get your Pap when you need it. It could save your life.

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