IT’S TIME TO TALK: FEMALE HEALTH

“Reading the report by Bupa Health Clinics, some results totally shocked me, but on the other hand I felt the same way as the women surveyed.

“There isn’t much I don’t know about my female friends and their lives, but while reflecting recently I discovered that there is a topic we rarely, if ever, discuss; female health. We need to make the topic of female health more accessible to talk about. By educating women on the risks of breast cancer, for example, I think we could have a huge impact on women’s health.”

With my closest female friends, there’s not much I don’t know about their lives. I could order a three-course meal for them, swipe right on guys I know they would date and so far, there’s not been one birthday or Christmas gift that hasn’t gone down well (as far as I know). We talk about everything: family, friends, relationships, sex. But it wasn’t until recently I discovered there is one topic we never discuss: female health.

Why had this never dawned on me before? Arguably one of the most important issues on life’s agenda is one we seem to shy away from! Before my health assessment with Bupa Health Clinics, I decided it was time to confront my friends – speak the unspoken – and I have to say, the results were quite alarming. As someone who has had smear tests since I was twenty-one (I’m now thirty-three), I was literally gobsmacked to learn some of my best friends – women I regard more as sisters than friends – had never been for a cervical screening. Nope, not one. It also turned out that none of us checked our breasts as regularly as we should (and to be honest, I’m pretty sure those times we did, we were just winging it and hoping for the best). Additionally, one of my friends believed you had to be sexually active to have a smear test, however, learned this is not the case! I left the conversation feeling deflated, concerned and quite frankly ashamed by how little we really knew.

Surprisingly, it turns out my friends and I are in the majority. A recent study carried out by Bupa Health Clinics showed a whopping 64% of the female population in the UK are in a same state of confusion we are, which results in many being too embarrassed to go and see a doctor. I openly admit: I’m one of these women. Over the years, I’ve turned to Google instead of speaking face to face with a medical professional. My embarrassment and lack of knowledge led me to putting my health quite literally in the hands of a search engine. For example, a random website told me cranberry juice would cure my urine infection, so I was stocking up at Tesco the next morning (this is another myth, by the way, which the Bupa Health Clinics’ report alerted me to).

In fact, Bupa’s report provided my friends and me with a fountain of knowledge and proved that when it comes to female health, we still have a lot to learn. As it turns out, we’re not alone. In their report, Bupa highlighted the top nine most common myths falsely believed by women from a set list are as follows:

  1. An abnormal smear test indicates a high risk of cancer
  2. HPV isn’t transmitted through sexual activity
  3. Cranberry juice cures urine infections
  4. You should only have a smear test if you’re sexually active
  5. Having HPV means you have early signs of cervical cancer
  6. You can’t get pregnant while on your period
  7. Only women over 50 will experience the menopause
  8. Having a urine infection indicates poor hygiene
  9. Women with large breasts are more at risk of breast cancer than those with smaller breasts

So, let’s talk about the elephant(s) in the room: Why are my friends terrified of smear tests? Why aren’t  we discussing these matters with a doctor? Why would we rather resort to Google? In our cases, I can sum it up in one word: fear. Fear of embarrassment by how little we know, fear of the tests themselves or fear of the results. Although the fear stems from different places, it’s all too real and is enough for us to irresponsibly brush our concerns under the carpet and hope for the best. One of my friends is terrified about her results coming back as abnormal which Bupa discovered is a very common fear: a quarter of women believe an abnormal result indicates a high risk of cancer and this is simply untrue. Another one of my friends is in her thirties and has never had a smear test because she’s afraid it’s going to be painful. This I can relate to; I share the same fear. As I sat in the Bupa waiting room on a dreary Thursday morning, all my fears came back because even though I’ve had a fair few smear tests over the years, fear continued to rear its ugly head.

The first part of my female health assessment was rather enjoyable. My height (I’ve been telling the world I’m 5ft5 for years, however I’m 5ft3 and that all important half), weight and waist measurements were taken along with blood and urine samples. Health wise, I’m completely fine but having the opportunity to chat with a health advisor, who has a background in sports science, discussing ways I could improve my lifestyle and fitness was invaluable. After thirty minutes, I was enjoying a massage chair and a cuppa, feeling relaxed, refreshed and still a little bit nervous because I knew the dreaded smear test was to come.

My doctor, Lynsey is an absolute credit to Bupa and I wanted to give her a special mention in this post because she made me feel completely at ease from the moment we met. From my breast examination, I learned I had absolutely no idea how to check my breasts properly because honestly, I’d never been shown how. Did you know you are supposed to feel for abnormalities around your collar bone and breast bone? I didn’t know this, or that you are also supposed to check under your arms. Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone – just 14% of women surveyed by Bupa believed they should be checking around their collar bone for warning signs of breast cancer.

Before my smear test, I was a little nervous, but Lynsey put me at ease as we discussed why women fear cervical screenings. In her professional opinion, she believes it stems from fear of the unknown, a potentially bad experience previously or nerves over the results. She informed me it is due to these reasons, the staff at Bupa Health Clinics strive to ensure each woman has as pleasant an experience as possible. Is it painful? No, not one bit. It was actually comfortable, over in minutes and I left feeling proud. Proud I had taken control of all aspects of my health, proud I had spoken to Lynsey about previous concerns I’d never discussed with anyone and proud my friends and I were finally discussing all areas of female health correctly – no myths being falsely believed.  I had no idea a simple female health assessment would have the impact it has.

It’s time to talk and Bupa Health Clinics are on hand! Do you have a question related to female health? Not sure if what you’ve been told or the information you have found is fact or fiction? Bupa GP Dr Samantha Wild is hosting a live Q&A on Facebook on 19th October.

If you are 25 or over and would like to book a female health assessment, Bupa Health Clinics is offering a 20% discount on Female Health Assessments bookings made over the phone in October.  T&C apply.

It is so important we all get talking. I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below. Have you learned anything from this post? Do you face the same fear I do every time a smear test is due?


*Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Bupa Health centres, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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49 Comments

  1. October 18th, 2018 / 4:29 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. Women’s health is very stigmatized and everyone, women included, are somewhat uneducated on a lot of things! Great post!

    Gabrielle | wwe.TheOpinionatedOne.com

  2. October 18th, 2018 / 4:51 pm

    Excellent info. My circle are a little different, though. We talk about female issues all the time. I thought everyone stared this stuff, it’s definitely a good idea to be sharing this info.

    http://www.somethinginthewayshemoves.me

  3. Hannah
    October 18th, 2018 / 5:10 pm

    This is such a well written article about a very important subject. I had my first smear test this year, and it was nothing to worry about at all. I have friends who refuse to get theirs because they’re too scared and it baffles me. One of my friends who had previously been among that number, decided to go for a smear last year because she thought she should finally get it over and done with at the age of almost 35. I’m so glad she did, she had pre-cancerous cells. They were removed and she was fine but it just shows how important the smears are! I had NO idea about checking for lumps around your collar bone and breast bone though so I’ll be doing that tonight!!

  4. October 18th, 2018 / 5:32 pm

    This is such a brilliant post!
    I used to shy away from chatting with my friends about female health but now I’m a lot more open and it feels great to be honest.
    That Bupa Health Centre looks so relaxing and comfortable, I do wish NHS clinics/surgeries were like that and had massage chairs!

    Liv x
    http://www.seabreezecorner.com

  5. October 18th, 2018 / 6:52 pm

    Excellent info on women’s health! Thanks for sharing!

  6. October 18th, 2018 / 7:05 pm

    Such an amazing post to write. I totally agree that we don’t know enough about our own bodies. It’s so good to raise awareness and make sure us girls know how important checking our boobs and having regular smear tests actually is! Xx

  7. October 18th, 2018 / 7:46 pm

    This was such an interesting read! I’d never heard about checking by your collar bone, so thanks for that information! I’m 24 so am yet to have a smear test but I actually had the same procedure when I was pregnant to detect if I was having a chemical pregnancy(which thankfully, I wasn’t) and I was so nervous! But I am 100% going to be having regular smear tests when I am told to!

  8. October 18th, 2018 / 8:42 pm

    I agree that we should all be more aware about female health issues and be braver about discussing them so we’re all better educated.

  9. October 18th, 2018 / 9:03 pm

    I think there is so many misconceptions out there about female health it is good to hear that bupa are trying to tackle some of them head on and I hope it helps some people become more peaceful with their own health and feel like they can visit their GP.

  10. Hayley
    October 18th, 2018 / 11:03 pm

    What a brilliant article, Sarah! I can’t believe I also thought the cranberry juice thing was real, and also I had no idea to check my collarbones, although I remember the armpits part from the Coppa Feel campaign last year! Couldn’t agree more that I know the ins and outs of my friends lives but never really talk about female health. I dreaddddded having my smear done, but eventually got it gone (4 years late) whole having my coil removed – piece of cake! X

  11. October 19th, 2018 / 9:10 am

    I had my first smear last September and with anything like that, I researched so thoroughly so I’m pretty clued up on smear tests and what they mean. I wrote a whole bunch of posts about my experience and it BAFFLED me how many comments I had from women who didn’t know they needed one and were brushing it off like, “I don’t think getting one is for me”. If you have a cervix, it’s for you. My results came back abnormal and I had to go to the hospital for further tests and it was so terrifying so I feel really passionate about this because throughout the whole process, I was well informed and taken care of and didn’t need to be as scared as I was. I think if people spoke about this more, Women wouldn’t be so scared of getting their smears and it makes me sad how many “just don’t go because they’re nervous” when it’s such an important test. Anyway, I’m off on a tangent, great post!

  12. October 19th, 2018 / 12:16 pm

    What a fab read! Anything that helps to promote women’s health and losing the stigma attached to it is great xx

  13. October 19th, 2018 / 8:23 pm

    A very informative post and on such an important topic. It’s a subject we really should feel more open about discussing it with each other.

  14. October 19th, 2018 / 9:31 pm

    This was such an interesting read. Women’s health is definitely something that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be.

  15. October 19th, 2018 / 10:50 pm

    A brilliant post. I have been having smear tests since I was 18 (you can get them done earlier in Ireland) and every 2-3 years since. I’m 40 now and while I’m used to them, there’s still that little bit of fear this might be the one that hurts (once it’s happened). And isn’t it strange that as women we can talk about anything but our health’s!

  16. October 20th, 2018 / 9:19 am

    It sounds like your Dr was very professional and knew what she was doing. It’s also so great that the ladies who work at Bupa are so genuine and welcoming, putting women at ease and explaining the processes behind smear tests and breast checks etc

  17. October 20th, 2018 / 10:17 am

    This is a great post on a very important topic! I have learnt some things I didn’t know just from your post.

  18. October 20th, 2018 / 10:57 am

    A really informative article, us women don’t care for ourselves enough. I know myself I am too busy looking after everyone else that I get forgotten! But I do always go to my smear tests. It was good it was such a positive experience for you, hopefully others will feel reassured now and visit there’s.

  19. October 20th, 2018 / 1:20 pm

    this is such a brilliant post! why are we so scared to talk about feminie health!? i hope this post will totally open the whole conversation. i always forget how lucky i am to be surrounded by my beautiful mum and sisters who are so open about this sort of thing!

    Rosie

  20. October 21st, 2018 / 10:17 am

    This is a brilliant article and it really Encouraged me to consider my own health. You’re right. So many times I’ve dismissed certain aspects of my health or failed to talk to others about it. Why is that? It’s time to talk and share experiences. Loved this.

  21. October 22nd, 2018 / 10:30 am

    I really loved reading this blog post babe, so honest and well-written. I’m so happy to see you’re speaking out about female health. Thanks for sharing! 🌸✨

    With love, Alisha Valerie x

  22. October 22nd, 2018 / 2:16 pm

    Wow this post just hit home, I have been avoiding to get a smear for as long as I can remember. It just scares me so much and the thought of it makes me uncomfortable.

  23. Deepa
    October 23rd, 2018 / 4:09 am

    I agree that most of the myths you mentioned are very common and good you busted them. Women are afraid of getting screenings done but its always better to go early to prevent it early too.

  24. October 23rd, 2018 / 4:20 am

    My mom and I have been pretty negligent of our health. We pay attention to it only when we are very sick. Otherwise, it is just pop a painkiller and keep working. We plan to take better care of ourselves henceforth.

  25. October 23rd, 2018 / 1:47 pm

    Wow! I didn’t realise how much female health was swepy under the rug, a real eyeopening post!

  26. Ashley
    October 23rd, 2018 / 2:41 pm

    Thank you for sharing and bringing awareness to female health. This is such a great read! It’s very important to talk about these topics, so we all can be aware of our bodies.

    -Ashley
    Pieces Of Ashley

  27. October 23rd, 2018 / 3:01 pm

    This clinical sounds great and looks so comfortable! I think you’re totally right- it’s fear and embarrassment that stops us from doing all the routine things we should (and using google instead of our doctor!)

  28. October 23rd, 2018 / 3:20 pm

    Excellent post! And so on the point. It’s so true we women tend to tip toe around our health issues when it really should be our top priority.

  29. October 23rd, 2018 / 4:36 pm

    Hi Sarah!
    I LOVE that you’re posting about this. You’re 100% right when you say that we share everything with our female friends yet this subject seems to be off limits for some reason. If we never talk about it how are we going to learn?
    I put off my own smear test for almost a year because I was so anxious about it and, while it wasn’t pleasant, in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t so bad and I definitely felt empowered to look after myself a little more once I’d done it!
    I don’t have this Bupa initiative where I am but it sounds great! Caring and informative staff are exactly what we all hope for when we go for something like that.
    Thanks for starting a discussion around female health and breaking that taboo!
    Steph || http://www.stepphhsays.com

  30. October 23rd, 2018 / 5:12 pm

    Now that you mentioned it, I have never talked about female health to anybody. Weird. It’s real but it seems we take it for granted until it’s too late. I am one of those people who would rather search google than do a face-to-face consultation. It’s not fear per se. For me, it is inconvenient and such a hassle to go to the clinic when I can just look it up in Google… unless my condition got worse – which I know is not advisable. I am 30 and as we grow older we need more health screening. I really need to do this as soon as possible. Thank you for sharing this. Truly, knowledge is power.

  31. Amy
    October 31st, 2018 / 4:49 pm

    This was a great read. Google seems to be the new GP these days! I’m too young to get a smear test, but it is interesting to know more about it and some of the myths. I hope that society can have a wider conversation about female health to beat the stigma.

    Amy | hookedonthemusic.com

  32. November 14th, 2018 / 2:02 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. For some reason, women still don’t seem to be able to talk about their female health openly. It’s still a taboo in many circles, which has never made sense to me. Knowledge is power AND better health.

  33. Alexandra
    November 14th, 2018 / 2:37 pm

    Such an amazing and important post, that really made me think!
    You’re so right -it isn’t something I had thought about before, but it really is the one thing I don’t talk about with my friends. Thanks for sharing this!

  34. November 14th, 2018 / 4:53 pm

    Having a smear isn’t the most pleasant of experiences but it has improved in recent years and is vital – I think I could do with having a full MOT

  35. November 14th, 2018 / 5:01 pm

    Me and my friends must be weird because this is a topic we are always talking about! I understand that most women might find it uncomfortable to talk about this type of stuff but when you are friends with nurses and health workers, no topic is out of bounds!

  36. November 14th, 2018 / 8:14 pm

    Thank you so much for the great post. I really enjoyed reading it, women health is be taken seriously and should be discussed openly! Nothing is taboo when it comes to health.

  37. November 15th, 2018 / 6:22 am

    Amazing insight! I enjoyed reading this, the world is improving on what we can discuss and I’m so glad about it.

  38. Ola
    November 15th, 2018 / 10:16 am

    It’s really important to discuss female health. It would be best of course to have those discussions as one is growing up so that it can be easer as an adult. I’ve been slowly getting better at tuning into my health these days. This article is a good reminder to continue.

  39. November 15th, 2018 / 3:04 pm

    Woman’s Health is still considered taboo and not many people (even woman) talk openly about smear test. Its so important to do this as it can save your life.

  40. November 15th, 2018 / 4:36 pm

    Such a great topic and timely too. As a breast cancer survivor, it was the women who were talking about health that really made me pay attention to my body. You may have saved someone’s life.

  41. Deepa
    November 15th, 2018 / 6:30 pm

    Its important to spread awareness and speak about women health issues as most of us tend to ignore our health. Good to know you had a good experience with your doctors.

  42. November 15th, 2018 / 6:42 pm

    Thank you for bringing awareness to this important topic! Women’s health is very misunderstood and often overlooked!

  43. Becca Wilson
    November 15th, 2018 / 7:49 pm

    This topic is so very important. So many people sweep health and touchy subjects like this under the rug.

  44. November 15th, 2018 / 11:35 pm

    this is a great post. we really need to be more open about our health in general. sometimes by talking to others, thats the only indication we may get that something may not be right

  45. November 16th, 2018 / 12:06 am

    Women’s health is so important and so many of us don’t actually talk about it. There really needs to be more openness. Love those quick facts, great things we all need to know.

  46. Shar
    November 16th, 2018 / 4:07 am

    This is such a well written post with such great info. Women health is so important but we often get so embarrassed to talk about it… Thanks for.sharing!

  47. November 16th, 2018 / 6:46 am

    I really need a female health assesment! I’m over 25 and am embarrassed to admit I haven’t been to the doctor since my last delivery over two years ago. I think it’s time I schedule one to ensure everything is looking good.

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