I was thrilled to learn about the new cervical cancer test that will replace the Pap smear next year.
My excitement stems from three things:
1. The test will be a more accurate screening process for cervical cancer
2. I’ll only be needing one every five years, instead of biennially.
3. It’s no longer called the Pap smear.
The Pap smear was first developed 60 years ago, and let’s face it — despite the fact that it could save your life, there’s not much to love about the experience.
You drop your knickers and lie anxiously while a doctor inserts a cold implement into your vagina to take a swab of your cervix. No wonder campaigns were needed to encourage Australian women to have them every two years.
But now those days are gone.
Well, not completely — you'll still need to have your insides swabbed, but as of 2017 you'll only need to do so every five years. That's because the human papilloma virus test, which will replace the Pap smear, is more accurate.
According to Cancer Council of NSW researcher Megan Smith, the test looks for HPV, the virus that "virtually causes all cervical cancers".
However, did I mention it's not called a Pap smear anymore? That could be the best outcome of them all.
A reminder letter from my doctor came in the mail last month, and I couldn't help but cringe reading in big bold letters that I was due for my 'Pap smear'.
Let's face is — "smear" is nobody's favourite word. It's a synonym for smudge and stain. It's what you do to peanut butter to get it on your toast. It's the way grease gets on a mechanic's face.
That unfortunate imagery was never far from my mind when I scheduled my appointment at the doctor's office — or, more often, avoided scheduling it.
I've often thought the important cervical cancer screening was in desperate need of a re-branding; calling it a 'Pap test' instead of a 'smear' just never stuck. Now, it seems the health experts have heard my silent prayers — they've settled on calling the new screening the HPV test.
Yes, we're finally free of that cringe-inducing word.
Mia Freedman recounts her awkward Pap smear story on Mamamia Out Loud. (Post continues after audio.)
As I've just turned 25 — the new minimum age required for testing (because it turns out the test was not effective for 18-24 year olds) — and will be booking a HPV test when the Federal Government’s renewed National Cervical Screening Program comes into effect in May.
I never thought I would say this, but I'm looking forward my next cervical cancer screening appointment.
Bye bye Pap smear - hello HPV test.