Lucy Mangan

"It's time to address your fears ladies"

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Stylist Team
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There are a lot of Weeks around, have you noticed? As in National Camping and Caravanning Week, National Poop Scoop Week, National Vegetarian Week (which perhaps fortunately came just before National Barbecue Week, although that sadly failed to coincide with National Get Grilling Week), National Noise Action Week and even a National Walk To School Week.

Alas, I do not own a dog, school-age child or barbecue, I wouldn’t go on a tent or mobile-home-based holiday if you gave me an entire year rather than seven days of encouragement and my recent attempt at vegetarianism was scuppered by both my love of bacon and my hatred of salad. And as I would truly happily and truly bloodily slaughter anyone who roars past me on a motorbike or in a car blaring music any day of the week and twice on Sundays (day of rest, people! Not day of selfishly ruining the aural environment for the hundreds of people you pass as you go about your cretinous, selfish, egocentric b*stard business!), I don’t need a special week to help me in my endeavours.

But this week is National Cervical Screening Awareness Week and do you know what? I do have a cervix and I could use a bit of help when it comes to getting it screened. Blimey, I don’t like smears. Nobody does. Actually, I don’t know about that. I’m assuming. The human animal is an almost infinitely various and surprising thing and there probably are in fact some who do. If you are one of them, may I commend your good fortune and advise you to think about ways in which you could possibly monetise this valuable asset. Perhaps by offering counselling or by setting up an incredibly perverse and lucrative subscription-only website?

But for the rest of us, back to scrapey business. Many things work against booking that every-three-years appointment. It is a very unnatural thing, allowing someone to poke about in your nether regions with clinical rather than carnal intent. We – as a species, I mean, not as women – are also relatively bad at taking preventative rather than curative measures in any field. It’s why we aren’t doing much to stop global warming or why we find ourselves having to diet rather than instituting a healthy, balanced regime. And in addition, smears can hurt in a way that even a diet rarely does. Against that, of course, you do have to weigh the fact that regular smear tests can save your life. That’s not melodrama, hyperbole or overstatement, just simple fact. But one we are in danger, it seems, of forgetting.

My GP turned out to have the hands of an 18th century dutch lacemaker

Aside from a surge in numbers of women getting tested in the wake of Jady Goody’s death – at just 27 – of cervical cancer in 2009, the proportion of us going for our smears has been falling for 10 years. Now 20% go unchecked while eight women a day are diagnosed and three women a day die of a preventable – preventable – disease. So we need to address our fears. Unnatural as such poking may be, but what’s that against a natural death from a terrible disease left to spread unchecked?

Yes, it takes an effort of will to say ‘I feel fine, but I know there is a chance that something bad could be going on and if I don’t check it out I could mightily regret it’ but if you have the capacity to decide whether a pair of shoes is worth the money – and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we have all managed this mighty feat at one time or another – then you can do this. Ringing the doctor vs having cancer. It’s a cost-benefit analysis that yields one of life’s more convincing results. As for the pain – yes, it can hurt. I’ve had some doozies. But, two things: a) it’s better than the alternative and b) it doesn’t have to hurt. You get recommendations for a restaurant – why not for this?

Ask around and find someone who swears by their doctor, even if it’s only because they’re happy to dish out the Valium beforehand. Don’t forget about family planning clinics either, if you don’t like your GP. They, after all, more or less specialise in hoo-has whereas the GENERAL practitioner has to know a bit about everything. That said, the most painless fanjo-fiddle I ever had was from a hulking great male GP who turned out to have the hands of an 18th century Dutch lacemaker. At one point I had to check he was still there. But do go. Go this week. Don’t get sick. Don’t die. (Visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust at or call 0808-802 8000.)

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