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'Pap tests saved my life' Beauty & The Geek star urges women to have vital test

Posted by Shannon, April 2014

Jess and her familyInterview with PapScreen Victoria ambassador Jess Zinna

Jess was a contestant on reality TV show Beauty and the Geek in 2012 and is now with ex-Farmer Wants a Wife bachelor Matthew Gallagher. The couple announced the arrival of their son Jax late last year.

PapScreen Victoria: First of all, congratulations on the birth of your son, Jax! We are absolutely delighted to have you on board as an ambassador for PapScreen Victoria. Tell us a bit about your cervical screening history. Why are you reminding women to book in for a Pap test every two years?

Jess: Pap tests are so important. They saved my life. I had my first Pap test when I was 18 years old and have had them regularly since then. I had one where the results came back as abnormal. The nurse told me not to worry about it but six months later, I just wasn’t right. I had lost a lot of weight and my hair was brittle. I just felt something was wrong. So I booked in for another Pap test. The results showed that I had a high grade abnormality so I was sent straight for a colposcopy for a further look. I had surgery to remove the abnormal cells combined with laser treatment. Since then I have been diligent about having regular Pap tests. The results have all been fine, until recently I had a result showing a very mild abnormality. So this is being monitored carefully to ensure it doesn’t develop any further.

PapScreen Victoria: What went through your mind when you found out you had an abnormal result?

Jess: Overall, the experience was very scary. Being a young woman, you think you’re invincible. But cancer doesn’t discriminate and age is no barrier. The impact on my ability to have children was also very worrying because the surgery posed a very small risk to my fertility. You want to know that you will be able to have a family when the time comes. So it was a very emotional, scary time in my life.

PapScreen Victoria: Now that you’re a mum, do you think it’s more important than ever to make time for your own health?

Jess: As a mum, you’re always making sure that your family is healthy. So as I see it, if I fall apart, my family will fall apart. As a mother, you need to be the strongest so your family will be strong. I know mums are often time poor but it doesn’t mean you should gamble with your health. You are in control of your health and you need to take charge and look after it. Finding the time to look after your health and get to the doctor is hard, but not impossible. A Pap test only takes 10–20 minutes. I know it can be a little uncomfortable and awkward, but you need to just do it.

PapScreen Victoria: What message do you have for other women and mums out there?

Jess: I always remind my friends to get a Pap test and to listen to their bodies, so when there are any changes, they can get them checked out as soon as possible.

For more information on cervical screening, visit www.papscreen.org.au

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