pap tests, awareness, women's health, cancer, cervical cancer

“It’s like going to the dentist, except it’s down there … and there aren’t any teeth”

A quirky new video is taking cervical cancer prevention to a new level by bringing viewers along Sophie’s journey of having a pap test. Created by Cancer Council Victoria and PapScreen Victoria, the video follows the character of Sophie who wakes to the shocking realisation that she’s booked in for that awkward pap test.

Confronted by the usual pre-pap test dilemmas, such as whether to shave ‘down there’ and which underwear to wear, Sophie gives herself pep talks to psych herself up for the main event.

“It’s okay. Nothing they haven’t seen before,” she tells herself, unconvincingly. “Okay. Get a grip! No, not grip… relax.”

PapScreen Victoria Manager Hiranthi Perera says with figures showing that more than half of young women are not having regular pap tests, the video aims to relieve some of the fear and anxiety that surrounds the cervical screening test.

“We know that young women especially put off having pap tests because they’re scared or embarrassed. This video is a realistic and light-hearted look at what happens during a Pap test to help ease some of those feelings,” Ms Perera says.

“Sophie also shows us how to best prepare for one – such as wearing a skirt and doing your best to relax.

“It’s so easy to get anxious about what is, really, a very simple and quick test that all women need to have. This video shows women that pap tests are really, not that bad.”

Latest figures show that more than half of young women aren’t having regular pap tests, while new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia this month shows that pap test rates are even lower in those who have had the HPV vaccine.

A pap test looks for abnormal changes to the cells on the cervix, which if left undetected and untreated, could develop into cervical cancer. Around 90 per cent of cervical cancers can be prevented with regular pap tests.

Current national guidelines recommend that all women aged 18 to 70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every two years.

Anxious about paps? Follow these tips:

  1. Relax and remember to breathe
  2. Wear a skirt, pants or shorts so you can simply undress from the waist down
  3. Feel free to ask questions
  4. Have the test first thing in the morning, so you can get it over and done with before you’ve had the whole day to stress about it
  5. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, let the doctor or nurse know
  6. If you arrive for your appointment but realise you’re not ready to do the test, you can always come back another time.
  7. Take a friend with you for support