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My #1 Health Tip

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Sometimes it’s hard to talk about our lady parts. While the dick-swinging portion of the world can brag about the size of their junk, or mention which way their wobbly bits are leaning that day, the ladies usually tend to keep their privates, well… private.

My #1 Health Tip

Open up to your doc about this and it could save your life.

But there comes a time when we all must talk about our nether regions in order to stay safe and healthy. I know this from experience. Not too long ago, I was diagnosed with – and beat – a rare form of breast cancer. Now I don’t mess around. I no longer have the attitude that ‘it can’t happen to me’, or ‘I’m too young to get cancer’.

We live in a world full of toxins, and the cancer rates for young people are skyrocketing. That’s why I never miss my cancer screenings. They’re, frankly, one of the most important things I put in my calendar because, while I learned a lot from beating cancer, I would say it’s a much better idea to catch cancer before it settles in.

Your healthcare practitioners agree. The National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH) and HealthyWomen (with support from Hologic, Inc.), believe that women should be tested for various forms of female-specific cancers, early and regularly. And, in honor of Cervical Health Awareness Month, HealthyWomen and NPWH are trying is trying to help women shed their shyness and start talking about their lady parts with the brilliantly-named campaign “Sentiments from the Stirrups.”

My #1 Health Tip

This takes only about 15 minutes, once a year, and it can save your life.

Now, we all know that a gynecology visit is not always the most pleasant experience. The doctors unceremoniously stick cold, metal devices up your hoo-ha and jiggle and expand them in ways that you didn’t know your vagina could handle… and not in a sexy way. You sit there in a silly hospital gown with your legs in the air, (not waving them like you just don’t care), trying –awkwardly– to make small-talk with the doctor who’s somehow managing to tell you about the beautiful weather we’ve been experiencing lately, while peering intently into your cervix like a miner searching for gold. Needless to say, there are certainly a number of sentiments being felt from the stirrups!

For example, did you know that 80% of women keep their socks on while in the stirrups, and prefer to wear granny panties to the gyno instead of lingerie? I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to use my sexy panties for my gyno visit, even if the doctor is Dr. “McDreamy” Derek Shepherd in the flesh.

My #1 Health Tip

And if you’ve ever felt stupid when your doc tells you that you’ve got your gown on the wrong way, take solace in knowing that you’re in good company. 45% of women believe the gown should be worn to the front. That means 55% of women believe the gown should be worn open to the back. And, almost 20% believe they could turn it into a good look with the right accessories. Wow. Either that’s a lot of seriously nervous women, or those gowns are tres-unintuitive.

If you’re wondering if all this applies to you, experts recommend that women 21-29 receive regular Pap tests, and that women 30-65 receive Pap+HPV when getting screened for cervical cancer.

More than 12,000 women will learn they have cervical cancer this year, and more than 4,000 will die from this highly preventable disease, according to the CDC. Cervical cancer was once the-most-fatal cancer among women, but with the introduction of Pap screenings in the 1950s, cervical cancer death rates have plummeted 70%. That is incredible! And, if you get the vaccination against HPV, your chances of getting sick are even lower.

That’s why NPWH and HealthyWomen, with support from Hologic, Inc., want women to open up about their gyno experiences to spread awareness about cervical cancer. And I agree — it’s high time that we ladies start talking about what’s going on down where the sun don’t shine. How do we feel about having our feet up in the stirrups? What is the consensus on this hospital gown issue? And most importantly, how can we more effectively protect ourselves from cervical cancer? The first step is to talk about Pap+HPV at your next GYN exam. To learn more about cervical cancer screening, visit HealthyWomen.org and use hashtag #StirrupSentiments.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me, with support from Hologic. The opinions and text are all mine.

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

61 Comments

  1. Thanks for this tip! Women definitely need to put this on top of priority list — regular health check!

  2. Maxine Ford

    Thanks for this useful piece of info! I think at an early age, every girl should be explained the importance of visiting a gyencologist.

  3. Esther Devine

    I don’t mind seeing a female gynecologist, but I’m anxious about male doctors…

  4. Paul Daiz

    Glad you shared this — my sister had cervical cancer. I’m going to share this with my girlfriend.

  5. Brittany West

    Yeah, it feels awkward to visit a gyne! But prevention is always better than cure 🙂

  6. Mark T

    As a man, it’s nice to see women helping other women like this. I’ll share this info with my girlfriend. She should get tested too.

  7. Lancy Stanford

    “Did you know that 80% of women keep their socks on while in the stirrups, and prefer to wear granny panties to the gyno instead of lingerie?” REALLY?! I didn’t know. Thanks for the trivia!

  8. Zerin Martin

    I obviously don’t normally read about this sort of topic, but I love your writing style, and this was actually a really interesting read. I’m going to share it with the women in my life…

  9. Quin Meri

    I’m confused when to get my pap test, I’m 19

    • It’s my understanding that you should get them yearly after you lose your virginity. Sooner you start getting them the better. But double-check with your gyno!

  10. I wonder, is cervical cancer hereditary? Do genetics play a role in developing this?

    • I think it has more to do with HPV than genetics. Either way, definitely get tested yearly.

  11. Lakeshia Liu

    Let me admit that I’m hesitant to see gynecologists because I feel that their diagnosis depends on their questions and sometimes their prejudice are not allowing them to ask the right questions.

  12. Lyca Hewitt

    Thanks for writing about this. This is a great reminder (and warning). Women need to be careful and regularly checked.

    Just want to share my experience, I was 25 years old when I had severe vaginal bleeding for 8 months. I had hip pain, and the final diagnosis was “dyskaryosis.” It was stage 3 grade 2 cervical cancer. A year after months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy I have been told I am in remission for now.

  13. Dana Rosatti

    Thanks for bringing this to attention! I shamefully had no idea that regular screenings were so important. I thought I was good cause I got my screenings done a few years ago.

    • They’re SO important! Make sure to get one again soon… it should be yearly 😉

  14. Julia MacLean

    This is such an eye opener. Thanks for helping me see the importance of gyno exams. I’ve been postponing my exam for months now cause you know, the discomfort…

  15. Lena Dzeko

    Oh yeah! Thank you very much Hilary, for pinpointing that being young and feeling healthy doesn’t mean you’re not affected by this. Must get tested and vaccinated!

  16. Olivia Peterson

    Is it true that the vaccination doesn’t always work? I read that a woman got sick even though she was vaccinated.

  17. Pearl Nguyen

    Learned so many things from this quick read. Thank you for always helping us be more educated on feminine matters. Greatly appreciated! ❤

  18. I feel glad that my next gynecologist appointment is next week. I should talk to my doctor about this pap hpv test. Best to be sure than be sorry.

  19. Christina Cavanaugh

    What are the symptoms of cervical cancer? I just did a quick Googling after reading this, but every page says different stuff. Where could I find more info on this and symptoms?

    • I think you should talk to your healthcare provider about that, as it may vary from person to person. Sorry I couldn’t help more, but definitely get screened!

  20. Emma Blackwood

    I read somewhere that a woman beat cervical cancer by COMPLETELY ignoring everything her doctor said,didn’t take the medical treatment, and rejected hysterectomy, but went on a fully raw vegan diet and naturally beat the cancer. How true can that be? Does anybody know anything about this?

    • I read it too. Nobody can deny that eating raw does wonders but I don’t think it’s an alternate to professional treatment and health care. I think what she did was suicide, and by chance she got lucky and survived. Nobody should ever do that!

    • I’ve read a lot about the wonders of a raw vegan diet. I find doing the raw thing tough, but I’m definitely much healthier since I went completely vegan. I also learned a lot about health and carcinogens, toxins, etc. along the way, which I’m sure also helps…

  21. Hilda Komorowska

    Very well said, Hilary! As a cervical cancer survivor myself, I’m well aware of the importance of the screenings and early diagnose. I’m going to share this on all my social media.

    • Thank you! Sounds like you caught it quickly? Please do share it… hopefully, together, we can prevent others from having to go through this ordeal.

  22. Elin Hanks

    I really want to get checked, especially now that I read this. But I really dread pelvic exams. Could use some tips on how to be more relax during gyno appointments.

  23. Irene Morales

    Thanks for helping spread awareness about cervical cancer. Unfortunately my mother lost her life to this 9 years ago, and she didn’t know she had it until the very last stages. I hope this brings awareness to millions of women, so no more lives are lost to cervical cancer.

  24. Thank you making this article! Great reminder that cancer is no joke, and that we should take our health and health problems more seriously.

  25. Teresa Tanner

    Although it’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world, a few uncomfortable minutes at the gyne exam table is worth it, if it’s going to help me prevent cancer and save my life.

  26. Very informative, such a thorough article. Thank you for not forgetting about Cervical Health Awareness Month. I’ve been seeing you posting about it on your social media accounts. ?

  27. Roberta Bennett

    I remember reading your article on how you beat cancer. You’re a real survivor, Hilary! A true inspiration and a heroine in our eyes. Thanks for helping us be more aware, be stronger, and be smarter. So much love for you! ❤️

  28. Nicky Bryan

    Ooops. Looks like I’m not the only one with the gynecologist phobia. You’re right though. I should stop putting it off, and book an appointment as soon as possible.

  29. Taking socks off? Well, let me tell you about my first gynecologist visit… I DIDN’T TAKE OFF MY SHOES!!!! I didn’t know that I should have. The assistant didn’t tell me anything about it, so I was laying there with my shoes on. When the doctor told me to take off my shoes, it was the most embarrassing moment of my life!

    • Awwww that’s funny in retrospect though! I bet a lot of women do that!

  30. Nancy Musselman

    Cervical Cancer Awareness Month! I think a month a year isn’t enough to bring awareness. I think every day of the year should be dedicated to spreading awareness for all sorts of cancer.

  31. Great points here Hilary! Convinced me to go get checked even though I hate gyno visits!

  32. The number are crazy! It’s so sad to know that so many women lose their lives to this disease which could be cured or prevented easily had they been more careful! 🙁

  33. Lana Urie

    I know HPV isn’t only sexually transmitted, but we can prevent it by using condoms too as well as getting vaccinated. And having the strain of HPV doesn’t mean that you have cancer or will have cancer at some point? I was informed by doctor that HPV is transient, and could clear itself most of the time. Or was I informed wrong?

  34. Diana H

    Very interesting article, least to say. Though I must admit, I am a bit too health conscious, so reading this made me worry a little. Does a vaginal wart mean you have cancer?

  35. Evelyn Sandler

    Hi, Hilary! First of all, it might be a while ago this happened, but big congrats to you on beating cancer, and I wish you health and good luck! Secondly, Thank you so much for this article.

  36. Marina Henderson

    This is so me!! I feel extreme discomfort even though my gynecologist is a woman.

  37. What a brilliantly informative article! I am sharing this everywhere, because sadly we live in a world where most women never heard of cervical cancer. Every view, every read counts. Because it means one more person is now aware of cervical cancer and how to prevent it. ??

  38. Jae Medina

    I’m a firm believer that regular checkups and exams are extremely important. Cause in any case, not only cervical cancer, early detection saves lives almost every time. I witnessed it in family, among friends, at work. Too important to get checked regularly no matter how much you fear the gyne table.

  39. Gerry Carlton

    Why is it that everybody’s talking about breast cancer all the time but rarely ever cervical cancer? I’m not saying one is more important than the other, but I believe cervical cancer needs just as awareness as breast cancer does!

    • That’s a good point! And cervical cancer is so much easier to treat…

  40. Amanda Roberts

    Do all gynecologist do Pap+HPV testing or should I go to a hospital instead of a private gyne office?

    • All gynos do it. Just ask the next time you have a checkup, or call and go in for a screening ASAP if you haven’t had one before. 🙂

  41. Great piece! Very helpful, and all the information you gave here is very useful. Thanks so much!

  42. Kimberley Foulkes

    Hello, Hilary. This unfortunately hit home. I learned it the worst way how important it is to get vaccinated. I thought I was a very healthy woman, who regularly exercise and eats a healthy vegan diet. Until I just recently had a cervical biopsy because I was told that I have some abnormality that’s caused by cells that are most probably cancerous. Still waiting for the actual biopsy results. But the wait is killing me. Especially knowing that this could have been prevented if I had been vaccinated.

    • Don’t stress… the good news is that it’s highly treatable when caught early.

  43. Ingrid Winston

    You couldn’t be more right! I have a friend who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at an early stage. A simple regular check up saved her life.

  44. Carol Warren

    Thank you for caring Hilary, and helping us be more aware. Really appreciate this article.

  45. Molly

    Wearing the gown backwards, not removing the socks, feeling extremely anxious and uncomfortable at the exam table… You’re talking about me! I know the importance of regular check ups so I deal with all the humiliating discomfort. Could you perhaps make an article on how to beat gyno anxiety? That could help so many of us.

    • Hmmm… I’ll have to think about some tips! How about meditating first? And bringing a fun book to read during the exam?

  46. Felicia Stewart

    Well now I feel guilty, stupid and worried, because my last gynecologist visit was years ago. I really should make an appointment ASAP!

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