At-home smear tests sound great — just so long as I can still choose to be examined by a nurse

Natasha Mwansa
·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

Smear tests aren’t fun for anyone. The cold and clinical feel of the GP’s office, legs spread with the stoic and unflinching face of the nurse peering at your undercarriage. Then there’s the speculum and that foreign pinching feeling in the depths of your cervix. It’s impersonal and invasive, but then it’s over. Later you get your results and, God-willing, you have the all-clear. You get on with your life until your next appointment, assured that a vital medical examination taken by an experienced medical professional has procured accurate results.

Now with news that women across London will be trialling at-home smear tests, I can’t help but have mixed feelings. The benefits of easy access healthcare are clear: going to the GP or sexual health clinic for things like contraception or STI check-ups can be a chore, especially as you usually need to go during working hours. DIY health checks would also undoubtedly help catch problems that would otherwise have been missed, simply because a lot of people are too embarrassed to talk about their intimate body parts.

I worry that this approach could be setting a dangerous precedent. Let’s not forget that we’re human beings, and human beings do not like pain or discomfort. Any professional conducting a medical exam will do it to its entirety. I can barely stomach plucking my own eyebrows, let alone sticking a swab where the sun don’t shine. If we’re too scared to be thorough enough, we may not pick up on troubling symptoms.

Also, is it just me or does it seem like a lot of women’s problems are being shafted down the priority list, as if our issues aren’t serious enough to warrant an in-person visit? Enough women’s issues go misdiagnosed as it is — surely the last thing we need is to have to tackle everything from STI kits to abortion pills and now smear tests unassisted?

I understand the need for convenience, discretion and minimal physical contact in times like these, but if we can’t go to the GP for health check-ups, what can we go to them for? If self-administered medication and testing kits were completely optional, with anyone being able to opt for face-to-face consultations fuss-free, I wouldn’t be so wary. The worry is that, much like over-the-phone consultations, these practises will be offered in place of in-person visits, consequently allowing for error. If a trip to the GP is the difference between catching any problems early enough to treat them and missing them entirely, I’d like to think that it’s worth the fuss.

The Golden Globes was, as always, full of pleasant surprises and big disappointments. It was a good night for The Crown which took home four gongs, including best television drama series, best supporting actress for Gillian Anderson and best drama actor and actress for Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin respectively. There were also some strides made in terms of diversity and seeing Chloe Zhao take home the directing award in a category dominated by diverse women was a personal highlight.

But the Globes just didn’t go far enough. Let’s not forget how grossly overlooked I May Destroy You was. Then there’s the controversy of the HFPA not having a single black member. Awards shows are about more than shiny gongs and designer dresses, they’re the difference between whose work gets funded or not. If the decision makers don’t reflect the diversity of film-making talent out there, awards will never do them justice.

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