Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Holy smokes is Ireland in the dark ages when it comes to Pap Smears! Check out today's article about how there's going to be a "new system" for getting them. I was going to say for getting "annual exams" because that's what we call them in America. That's right, it's so common for women to get pap smears and full gynecological exams as soon as they become sexually active and/or reach the age of 18 every single year that's it's simply called an "annual." As in, "I have an appointment with my gyn on Wednesday for my annual," which is universally understood by both men and women.

Earlier this year there was a big media blitz over the death of Jade Goody, who became famous for being on the British TV reality show "Big Brother." She was only 27. Many people said that her death brought a greater awareness to the issue of cervical cancer screening. But why does some celebrity have to DIE before simple epidemiological measures are taken for public health? Why is this not standard practice as a yearly thing in the UK and Ireland? When I was in my late 20s I had a bad pap smear, and discovered that I had pre-cancerous cells. There is a simple procedure for it. If you get yearly pap smears, you are very very unlikely to ever get cervical cancer, especially since it takes a long time for those pre-cancerous cells to turn into cancer.

I am so incensed at this policy. It's as if they think pap smears are like shiny new handbags at the mall and women are just asking for them willy nilly. I wonder how much one pap smear measures up against the cost of cancer treatment. But we can't let women manage their own health - oh no! They'll spend all the government's money on those fancy gynecological tests that are all the rage nowadays! God forbid just *anyone* can go to her doctor and get a pap smear - let's make them request one and then get an "invitation" to make an appointment six months later. Elitist medicine by the HSE. Why am I surprised?


  1. It's terrible isn't it? But an improvement on the days when all of 'those problems' were hidden away and never talked about. Women's rights are measured in small steps here...

  2. It's actually not a yearly thing in the UK. The NHS will only cover a healthy woman every 3 years. If you've had one that had questionable results you can be eligible for one every year (or every 6 months), but the average woman on the NHS only gets one every 3 years.

    While I think this switch to the invitation letter thing is ridiculous, I think it's pretty amazing that they're yearly and they're free. I never had a free annual exam with my US health insurance. I'm less concerned about the letters as the ability of the country to sustain the offer of free exams.

  3. I got annual exams for 20 years in the US, and my health insurance paid for every single one of them without any hassle at all. Of course, over in the US, there isn't free healthcare except for the very poor. In fact, when I was visiting in June I got free healthcare, which included gyn care, thanks to my current unemployed status.

    The every three year pap and annually if you have a problem thing is completely unacceptable. When I had my health issues, I was ordered to get a pap every three months for a year. Prevention is worth more than cure.

  4. I was relating a story 'bout my fabulous gay gyne back home in D.C. to a new friend here -- as you do -- when he grew very serious and asked what was wrong with me. Besides the obvious personality quirks and knee issues, I said that I was perfectly healthy. That's when I learned that paps are not a regular thang in these parts. Scary...

    The thing is, an annual exam is not only important to prevent cervical cancer, but to prevent and treat STDs. Is this seriously not a concern?? I mean, chlamydia exhibits no symptoms more often than not, yet it causes infertility and makes women many times more susceptible to HIV. Not to mention that a woman who actually knows she has an STD is less likely to pass that STD on to another. The logic for requiring annual paps is so simple.

    Anyhoo! Thanks for you blog! I've been following it on and off for a while now and for some reason decided to introduce myself on the topic of pap smears... :)

    I just moved here to join my Irish fiancée. I find your commentary on both Irish and American culture absolutely hee-larious and incredibly insightful!

  5. Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind words. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing into a void!