Valentine’s Day & Pap Tests – What’s The Connection?

Valentine's Day - Pap Smear Reminder

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.

I can’t remember exactly when my last pap smear was. I know it was within two years as I always receive a letter from my doctor telling me it is time to have another one – that hasn’t arrived recently. Some pretty standard things happen when the letter does arrive:

  • I look at my calendar and think about how I can fit it in.
  • The notice gets placed in my “to do” tray.
  • I delay ringing the doctor and committing to the appointment.
  • Think again later that week about the logistics of having the pap smear done. Move on as it seems too hard.
  • The due date comes and I quickly call the doctor to schedule an appointment for as soon as I can and figure out logistics later!
  • The night before I make sure everything is “tidy” for the appointment.

And current research would show that I am not the only woman who does this!

The Stats on Pap Smears in Australia

Results from a Newspoll survey* taking in January this year revealed some alarming statistics:

  • Over 920,000 Australian women (13%) have never had a Pap test.
  • 40% are not having regular Pap tests every two years as recommended.

The National Cervical Screening Program was introduced in Australia in 1991. Since that time the death rate from cervical cancer has almost halved. The death rate however should be much lower still. According to Joe Tooma, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation:

“Over 80% of women diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer have not had Pap tests. This is frightening and is a reason why education on the devastating effects of missing Pap tests is critical to help reduce the number of cancer cases each year.”

The survey also looked into female behaviour around the pap smear event and also the preparation undertaken around Valentine’s Day:

Two-in-five Australian women (42%) have some form of personal grooming lined up in preparation for Valentine’s Day this year with the majority of these reaching for the wax or shaver:

  • 21% will ‘tidy up’ their bikini line area or have a ‘Brazilian’
  • 37% will wax, shave or have laser hair removal treatment on their legs
  • 25% will style their hair by visiting a hairdresser or with a’DIY hairdo’
  • 11% will have a manicure or pedicure

The survey also showed that of the Australian women who have Pap tests, nearly all (97%) plan some type of ‘personal grooming’ in preparation for their Pap test:

  • 28% organise some form of ‘downstairs grooming’ from a trim or bikini line ‘tidy up’ to even a ‘Brazilian’
  • 47% will wax, shave or laser their legs
  • 29% make sure they have a morning appointment with their doctor
  • 37% select certain underwear for the occasion
  • 32% plan their wardrobe for the day by wearing certain clothing

Well I am not one of the two-in-five when it comes to Valentines Day, but they pretty much described my exact routine before a pap smear – I do all those things! (Sometimes if I am close to needing new underwear, I will purchase it before I go, so I have really new undies on.)

Valentines Day is coming – so is Pap Smear day!

Dr Ginni Mansberg, resident doctor on Seven Network‟s Sunrise and Morning Show, had this to say about the results:

“These findings don’t surprise me at all. As a GP, and as a woman, I know how women of all ages can be conscious of how they look – particularly when we’re in a vulnerable position, like having a Pap test. By setting a Pap test date around Valentine’s Day, it’s is an easy reminder and a great personal commitment to yourself.”

The concept of committing to a pap smear around a prominent and same time every two years, makes so much sense to me. I love routines where I don’t have to think about things too much. Even if Valentines Day isn’t a big deal to me personally, being a blogger I cannot avoid the all the craft and foodie blogs I read showing off all their lovely Valentines Day ideas. Mainstream media is the same – the hype is sure to catch me to remind it is time to have my pap smear.

When I explained this concept to Mr I, he responded in his matter of fact way “It is just like changing over the batteries in the fire alarm.” In Australia, we have a campaign that encourages every one to change the batteries in their fire alarm at the end of daylight savings (for Victoria this is the 1st April).

And he is so right – both of these actions will save lives.

So I have confessed to what I do – tell me do you ‘tidy up’ for Valentine’s Day or your pap smear?

*The Newspoll survey was commissioned by the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation and Hologic (Australia) Pty Ltd. It was conducted online on 19-22 January 2012 among 609 Australian women aged 18-64 years on their personal grooming preparations for Valentine‟s Day and Pap tests.

You can connect with the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation on facebook and on twitter.