There are a lot of special perks about being a woman: flowy dresses, sweet sixteens, the wage gap and imagining your wedding day. But we often forget about something that is so important to our health and should begin once you reach the age of 21: getting a Pap smear. While the thought of getting a Pap smear is cringey in every way, the consequences of not getting one are very large. So I guarantee you that the lack of comfort for ten seconds is worth it.
I, like many women, was very scared when my gynecologist looked at me and said, “Well, you’re here now, let’s just get it (my first Pap smear) out of the way.” Because she caught me off guard, I had no choice but to lift my legs and get in formation. I had no idea what to expect and my doctor told me it would just feel like a fingernail scratch and demonstrated it on my knee. When she told me this, I felt at ease despite knowing my pain tolerance, or lack thereof. I did not know what it would feel like and had not had the conversation about it with other girls. I also did not have the option of texting a friend because before I knew it, I was already in stirrups and experiencing nausea. Despite what I know now, I had no reason to be as scared as I was. Yes, it was scary and made me feel weird after, but I am glad it’s over and I can feel at ease knowing my test results were normal.
The Pap smear did hurt and is similar to the pain of getting a shot, but of course it feels more intense because it’s a occurring in a place that you’re not used to. I went a few days before my period so there was only a small amount of blood, and it was more comfortable. After my experience, my body did feel weird and it definitely did not make me enjoy being a woman. And I felt uncomfortable after it was done. But it also made me realize how important regular Pap smears are, and how so many women dangerously avoid them because of their discomfort.
The statistics about cervical cancer are scary and will remind you that a few awkward moments are worth the risk of not being another statistic. Pap smears allow your doctor to notice abnormal cells and attempt to identify one of a hundred types of HPV. When Pap smears were invented in the 1950’s, they decreased the rate of cervical cancer and related deaths by 60%. According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2010, an estimated 12,200 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and an estimated 4,210 will die of the disease. Just from these statistics and facts, it is evident how important it is to get a Pap smear. Even if you are scared, it will feel good to have your peace of mind knowing that you are not at risk.
I hope I didn’t make you afraid of Pap smears, but more so persuaded you to know they are important based on what a wimp I am when it comes to anything even close to pain. I know that if I could handle it, like billions of other women that experienced their first Pap smear, you can to. And most importantly, you will be able to protect yourself from a very preventable disease.