While our health and wellbeing should always be a priority, January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, so it's especially important time to learn more about screenings and the cancer that 4,210 women will die from this year. While cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, according to the American Cancer Society, the death rate has gone down by more than 50 percent thanks to the increased use of the Pap test, which is recommended with the HPV test for women ages 30-65 and alone for women ages 21-29 — so it's incredibly important that we're visiting our doctors and getting screened. But as a recent survey found, women definitely have some gynecologist jitters.
The survey, by National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health and HealthyWomen with support from Hologic, Inc. explored how women really feel about their appointments and what they do to prep, and found that seven in 10 women spend more time showering before their GYN exam, seven in 10 women specifically shave or wax for their GYN exam, and most women in their 30s *think* about sex at their exams but many won't bring it up."We're thinking more about the appointment than about those honest discussions," Melanie Notkin, author of Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness, founder of Savvy Auntie, and outspoken advocate for women, tells Bustle. "We're vulnerable, we are naked, and the exam is in the most intimate parts of our bodies. We should be talking about our sex lives, but we'd rather talk about This Is Us than our sex lives and asking the right questions."
She urges women ask their healthcare professionals for the Pap + HPV Together test if you're in your 30s and a Pap test if you're in your 20s "It's these tests that make sure that your healthcare professional can determine if there pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. Thank god [cervical cancer] is much less common after medical professionals discovered it is often caused by HPV, not all HPV but HPV can lead to pre-cancerous cells, which can lead to cancer."
In writing Otherhood, where includes stories from women who expected love, marriage, and children, she's learned a lot about how women talk about honesty, but aren't always honest with themselves — especially when it comes to thing people could judge them for. "I've been focused on women telling their true stories, their honest stories," she says. "That's information we need to provide health professionals when we go to them — that can save lives."
So how can you be more authentic? Notkin joined us for a Facebook live to share tips on being your true self, whether you're telling a partner about an STI or explaining to your grandma why you're single. Check out the video and some of Notkin's best advice below.