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Feline embarrassed? Cervical smear campaign encourages women to post pics of pussies

A new national campaign uses cat pictures to encourage women to embrace their ‘lockdown look’ and attend life-saving cervical screenings

● Almost 3 in 5 women who rely on professional waxing services admit to putting off attending their cervical screening appointment due to not being ‘perfectly preened’ (57%)

● Well over half of women who rely on beauty salons admit to missing their cervical screening appointment, even before the pandemic.

● The pandemic has worsened the ‘vanity over health’ danger zone, with the majority of ‘professionally waxed’ women saying they haven’t been able to get an appointment during the pandemic (92%)

A new tongue-in-cheek cervical cancer awareness campaign has been launched, which invites women to post a picture of a cat that best represents their current ‘lady garden’ using the hashtag #myCat, in an attempt to reduce the embarrassment factor, and promote the fact that ‘any lockdown look’ is welcome.

Is this cat Brazilian?

The campaign has been launched by myGP – the healthcare management app that two million NHS patients use to book their GP appointments – after its new research revealed that 57 percent of women who contribute to the £8bn that is spent on beauty treatments in the UK1 – would put off attending their cervical screening appointment if they hadn’t had a professional wax.

With 92 percent of women unable to get a beauty salon appointment as a result of lockdown restrictions, potentially thousands of women will avoid their cervical screening out of embarrassment of their ‘lockdown look’.

Out of the group of UK-based women who regularly opt for a salon wax, 56 percent admit to missing their cervical screening appointment, even before the pandemic.

Hillary Cannon, Chief Marketing Officer at myGP and three times cancer survivor, comments on why cute cat pictures can save lives:

“The spoonful of sugar impact of comedy-led health campaigns is really powerful, hence us using one of the Internet’s favourite talking points – cats.

No woman enjoys a cervical smear!

“The campaign’s cheeky ‘Bushy, bare or half-way there?’ messaging allows the discussion of a serious issue under the veil of laughter, which makes it easier for everyone to participate. Most importantly, the campaign reinforces the message that there is no ‘normal’ and there is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to your health, or to the way your body looks.

Harriet Leyland, Clinical Advisor at myGP, comments on why delaying or cancelling a cervical screening appointment can mean the difference between life and death:

“Early detection and diagnosis of precancerous cells or cervical cancer has a significant impact on an individual’s chances of successful treatment.

Many women believe that a cervical screening is checking for cancer, but what it actually is doing is screening for the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is associated with the vast majority of cases of cervical cancer. If HPV is detected, further screening of cells for abnormalities which can develop into cervical cancer is done. We are hoping that this fun and cheeky campaign can help to educate and encourage the one in three women who miss their cervical screening, for whatever reason, to attend.

“Cervical screening prevents 75 percent of cervical cancers, so our message to the hundreds of thousands of women who will avoid their smear test due to appearance concerns, is that it’s far too dangerous to delay attendance.”

In need of a spot of grooming?

Dr Yasmin Razak, a London-based GP and a member of myGP’s GP advisory panel comments on the prioritisation of cervical screenings across the NHS:

“All clinical work since the start of the pandemic is about saving lives. Our Practice Nurses’ focus is currently limited to baby immunisations cervical screenings – the essential services. This goes a long way in demonstrating the importance of cervical screenings to the health of the nation.” Beth Dunlavey, reality TV star and social influencer, comments on why her ‘abnormal’ result from a cancer screening aged 25 triggered her use of social media to communicate the importance of attending screenings amongst digital natives:

“If I had missed my cervical screening when I was 25, I may not be here today, making this campaign especially important for me.

“Far too often we are seeing women take the ‘appearance-first, health-second’ approach, and social media plays a big role in that. That’s what makes this campaign so powerful – it uses a light-hearted, fun subject matter to start potentially life-saving conversations.”

To find out more about the #mycat campaign or to share your cat picture, visit https://www.mygp.com/mycat

The #mycat campaign is part of myGP’s ongoing ‘Remind Us’ campaign, which is calling for Government to centralise all cancer screening SMS reminders in the interest of getting 780,000 more people to attend their their appointments, each year2. To find out more about the campaign, visit mygp.com/remind-us.

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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