Not a fan of the speculum

This morning I jumped into the car to do the school drop off, when I turned on ABC Sydney radio, only to hear Wendy Harmer finish off a segment with the sentence “I am not a fan of the speculum.”

This made me think “Who bloody well is!” then realised that there must be more to this story. Was something happening to our dreaded duck-bill?

I have an interest in cervical cancer and encouraging women to keep up with their screening for I once was diagnosed with HPV. I had unusual cells on ye olde cervix many moons ago. This was due to a phase I went through when I was blossoming into my sexual awakening and I sewed my wild oats accordingly.

Oh who the fuck am I kidding! I also sewed fields of barley, wheat and triticale. (What! Don’t judge me! It was the nineties!)

Anyway, my rudimentary research has uncovered the Governments plans to scrap the speculum and replace it with a “self swab” situation that is then sent away for testing. There is opposition against this plan of course. Nobody likes change! But having taken up the fight against HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer, started in 1991, Australia now has one of the lowest rates of this type of “fuck you” cancer in the world. Worrying, however, is the data that shows that Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders are dying from this cancer at four times the rate other woman, makes me think that this form of testing might make it more accessible for this group to get screened. As well as us who suffer from “white coat Anxiety” (a feat of visiting the doctor.)


Let’s be frank. No one LOVES getting a pap smear and it is this anxiety that makes women put this off. Many women never get one at all. Last year 250 women died from cervical cancer out of 903 cases diagnosed. As with most cancers, early detection is extremely important.

So at of the beginning of December, we might see the duck-bill released in a carefully orchestrated rehabilitation program, released into the lakes of the medical history books. Watch this space.

And yes Wendy, I too am not a fan of the speculum. But I give thanks to it and all that it did for me over the years. ONWARDS!



How one tweet saved my life

The end of the Pap smear is good news for women



Will you be pleased to farewell Daffy?

Ever sew your wild oats like a farmer possessed?

  • Heidi D

    as long as the new method works then great. I am not a huge fan of the speculum but after years of seeing a miriad of doctors I just take all proddings in my stride ☺

    • I am happy to do whatever will keep me healthy. But it is great that there will be an alternative for some.

  • I am not a fan of daffy but I am quite concerned about the changes mainly because I had Stage 1 cervical ca and no evidence of the HPV so I was bloody lucky that it was found (I had a smear in the Jan normal results, August at the gyn for something else a full work up including another smear discovered the ca!!)

    I am worried that I wouldn’t self smear properly and I am also concerned that there is the push that as HPV is one cause of Cervical “fuck you” cancer that this new test is actually only checking for the HPV not all changes. Given my history I will be insisting that my girls become friends with Daffy the Duck Bill it saved my life and is the only reason they are here because the ca was discovered early enough that I didn’t have a hysterectomy at 26!!

    • Yes, I think if you have a history like you and me, there would be that concern. There is a strong argument for the change, and a whole heap of opposition.

      • I think you are exactly right change is always very scary and we really won’t know whether this change is good or bad until it has been in place for a while. I guess in the meantime we can only make the best decisions based on our own history.

    • Maryanne Docker

      Unfortunately our current Pap smear is not good at picking up non-HPV cervical cancer either. This type of cancer usually starts higher in the cervix so is more difficult to test for.
      So how do we currently manage this, and how will we in the future? If you have symptoms see your doctor. If you have abnormal bleeding, even if you have just had your Pap smear you need further testing. A Pap smear is only a screening test ( that is, it is offered to all women in a certain age group who don’t have any symptoms). If you have symptoms you don’t need a screening test you need a diagnostic test which your doctor should organise for you.

  • Donna

    As a fat woman who is the daughter of a fat woman, I do have some insight. Loads of overweight woman avoid Pap smears (and other health checks) out of embarrassment. Self checks could assist. BUT I’m very concerned that no self swab could get the same “in depth” sample.

    PS. I sewed a lot of oats and have a store of stories saved for the old folks home.

  • Maryanne Docker

    Hi Mrs Woog. I think this information may be incorrect. My understanding is that a speculum exam will remain standard in Australia however the way the sample will be processed by the lab will be different. Self testing will only be offered to women who would not have a Pap smear if it involves a speculum exam eg women of certain culture backgrounds, women for whom it would be too distressing (eg history of sexual assault). For better or worse a speculum exam and sample collection by your local (and hopefully gentle) GP will be the best way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer.

    • Nellie11

      Yes, it will still be standard practice to do a speculum exam so that the Dr or nurse can see the cervix while they take the sample. This is especially important if someone has symptoms (and therefore needs a diagnostic test)

  • Shaz

    As an aside, did you know they were once testing an alternative to the speculum? It I vl ed blowing the vaginal walls apart with air. I think the less said about that the better. Not sure if anyone volunteered to test it ?

  • One of the benefits about having a hysterectomy? No more Pap smears! Anything that contributes to women being safer and more health conscious is a good thing in my books.

    I didn’t sow many wild oats but not because I was too busy sewing! LOL!

  • whicocan

    Please remember that HPV also causes cancer in boys and men, usually oral/throat cancers. There is a HPV vaccine so hopefully this cause of cancer can be eliminated but ladies please still have a pap exam. It saved my life!

  • Mel

    I’ve never had a problem getting a pap smear done, but I love medical science and read medical journals (photos included) while eating.

    I have a big problem with self smears, as others have mentioned, they might not be done correctly.