This is a sponsored conversation written by me with support from Hologic, Inc. The opinions and text are all mine.
The first time I went to have my lady bits checked as a teenager, I was fairly confident nothing in my life would ever be more embarrassing. After all how often would I find myself with my bottom exposed to a room, my knees akimbo and my health care provider who had known me since I was a child with her hands up my privates?
I agonized over the appointment before, during, and after the exam. Like 79% of other women, I kept worrying about whether I should use the bathroom before their GYN exam – what if I had to pee while her hand was up there? What if the nurse judged my granny panties I’d tried to stash in my clothes so no one could see them like 4 out of 5 of women do during their exams? I kept worrying about how my answers to their questions about sexual activity would make them think about me. This woman knew my parents and now I needed to talk to her about the most private aspects of my life.
Yet in hindsight, it was hardly a traumatizing moment, she asked me about my sexual activity, gave me birth control to help regulate my agonizing periods, and encouraged me to regularly get a Pap test. Despite my concern, it set the stage to make me more aware and concerned about my reproductive health. It’s easy to get complacent, especially when nothing is wrong or if you’re not in need of birth control to make checkups a regular occurrence. The fact is, it can save lives.
One of my dearest friends went in for her annual GYN exam, and being in her twenties got the standard expert recommended Pap test, and had the scare of her life when she got the call back for a follow up. Ultimately they determined she had precancerous signs in her cervix that allowed her to take early action. It’s for this reason that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in the U.S., because we have the ability to catch it early with both HPV and Pap tests.
My friend’s own cervical cancer scare in her 20s was a wake up call, and it’s why I stopped dreading the awkwardness of the GYN. Now that I’m 30, I realize it’s more important than ever that I stop being shy, and start asking for the care that can keep my girly bits healthy for many years to come. I’d rather sit through one swab for both my Pap and HPV, than run the risk of not catching an easily preventable cancer.
So as we kick off 2017, I hope you join me in making my girly parts a priority and talking to your healthcare provider about Pap+HPV at your next GYN exam. To learn more about cervical cancer screening, visit Healthywomen.org and join the conversation on Twitter with #StirrupSentiments.