Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Girly Bits

I went to the doctors today. Yes that's doctors, plural, there's no missing apostrophe there.

I went to the first doctor because I had to get my referral to the second doctor renewed. Nothing life threatening, just part of my current life. (If you've been reading this blog long enough, you'll know).

Anyway, I prepared myself mentally to see the first doctor because I knew I wouldn't get out of her office without having to submit to substantially more than the polite writing of a referral letter. I knew this because a few weeks before I had received a letter in the mail informing me that it was time for me to have a pap smear.

When I got that letter, I groaned. Don't get me wrong, my GP is the best. People tell me horror stories about pap smears and I know that I've had it good. Dr M is constantly reassuring and gentle throughout the whole awkward procedure, talking me through every step. But you know, it's still not terribly pleasant.

And somehow she manages to make me laugh too. About my response to her enquiry about what I'd been up to--'Same old, same old'--she said, 'What do you mean, 'same old, same old', you're having a pap smear!'

Then she casually mentions that I'm approaching 40. I tend to think that I'm going to be 40 in the same way that Billy Crystal responded to Meg Ryan's worries about turning 40 in When Harry Met Sally: 'When? In eight years!' Meh. But truthfully, I'm turning 40 in the way ThirdCat will be turning 40. Not so long now.

The significance of 40 for Dr M is that it means I'll have to start being vigilant about checking for lumps in my breasts. And since she is not one to miss an opportunity to administer preventative medicine, suddenly I had my shirt off and more poking and prodding ensued. Apparently one of my breasts is more fibrous than the other. (Oh, was that too much information?).

Anyway there is a point to this post aside from embarrassing self-revelation. I asked Dr M whether it was possible for women older than 26 to be immunised against cervical cancer. I wasn't sure if you had to be a certain age for the vaccination to be effective. I've seen the advertisements on bus stops encouraging young women to be immunised, and since the fellow who came up with the vaccine is a Professor at the University, I'm particularly aware of the development in preventative treatment for cervical cancer.

Well, it turns out that anyone can have it, but the government will only offer it freely to girls and young women between 12 and 26. The cost for older women is $150 per injection and three are required, one initially, another after 2 months, and yet another at 6 months.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about the imposition of an age limit on this potentially life saving treatment. On the one hand I feel outraged for older women in lower socio-economic groups. My doctor explained that many women were choosing to have the vaccination, but she knows I'm on a limited and irregular income, so she was quite subdued as she told me about it. I told her I'd think about it, but really, when it comes to my long term health, is it an option not to?

I think if I make it a priority, dip into my savings, since this is the kind of thing they're for, I probably can afford it.

Hope you and your loved ones can too.


ThirdCat said...

Good thing about pap smears, is you get to feel virtuous for about a year after you've had it thinking 'I only just had it, I don't have to have it again for aaaaages'.

Anonymous said...

Yes, getting the girly bots tendered to is always an adventure. Although I suppose at least all our bits are easily accessable...
I'm 25, and you have reminded me to get in and see the doc about the shot before I turn 26. I turn 26 in Feb, so I wonder if they will make me pay for the last shot?
I think it's worth spending your savings on.

Oanh said...

That's outrageous and unfair. Perhaps because I'm not pre-26 anymore, I don't know. I hope if I was younger than 26, I would still be outraged. I think I will tell my friends who are younger than 26 in Aus about this. Why between 12 and 26? Is there a rationale for the exclusion?

In the UK, I was outraged to find out that some Drs suggest that 25 is too young to have a pap smear.

Gianna said...

wow. i never questioned it before, thinking it must be because it only works for that age group or something--silly thought really. now that you mention it, why don't women over 26 matter? surely it matters just as much for the older demographics who are more likely to have dependents. it's not just lower socio-economic groups that would feel it--that's a lot of dough for anyone. if we could immunise men of any age against prostrate cancer, i'm sure we would find something in our wonderful mining boom surplus to meet the cost.