Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For Ladies: Getting a Pap in Japan

To all of my male readers, you probably do not want to read this post, so feel free to skip it.

I think it is something very important for ladies to get done annually, and something I found very nerve-wracking to get accomplished here in Japan.  In addition, my mother was breathing down my neck to go get it done (she's a nurse), so I finally got around to it.

For the rest of the entry, just click the link :)

Why was I so nervous?? First of all, I don't know of any woman who likes going and getting their annual exam done. Every year when that time arrives, I dread the visit. However, I needed to go. It had been just over a year since I had my last one in the States, and my prescription for OC pills had run out. So reason number one for nerves, was just that I dislike the appointment. Reason number two, language barrier. I am quite comfortable doing lots of things in Japanese in my daily life, however I am by no means a fluent speaker, and have zero knowledge of any kind of medical terminology. I decided to scout out a bi-lingual clinic in Yokohama. It took a bit of searching the web to find a decent looking one in Yokohama, however. The US Embassy actually has a list of English speaking doctors on their site, and used that as a starting place. There are plenty in Tokyo, but I was about to be in-between jobs and wanted to save money on traveling there. I ended up choosing Bluff Medical and Dental Clinic. It is in the Yamate area of Yokohama, and has a bi-lingual staff. Knowing I was going to a doctor who spoke English made me feel much more comfortable about the visit. There's no way I wanted to have any kind of misunderstandings. The final reason I was nervous is because I find the topic to be an awkward one to bring up with others. I have female coworkers and friends here, but it's just one of those things that kind of borders on too personal for me. My American female coworker at my old job hadn't even gone here in Japan when I finally asked her about it, and she didn't know anything about paps in Japan.

Anyway, once I decided to make the appointment, I called the clinic to do so. The lady who answered the phone spoke English just fine once I asked her if it was okay. She seemed a bit confused about what I wanted at first, because I was using more common American terminology 'I need to schedule an annual exam.' After I said I needed a pap-smear, she understood and made the appointment for two weeks later. I also told her I needed to get a new prescription for birth control, simply called ピル (pi-ru). A Google search can give you more information about the pill in Japan than I could ever give you.

The clinic itself is located in a very beautiful area of Yokohama, and is a bit of a walk from the closest train station (maybe five to ten minutes??). I arrived a little early, and they gave me a form to fill out. Just basic, first-time patient information, and when done I also gave them my insurance. They do NOT take private insurance, but I believe they will fill out any forms for you if necessary. National insurance is just fine. Once that was done, a nurse called me into the doctor's office. The doctor's English was almost native level, and he seemed a bit cold, but overall was a nice guy. He asked me some questions, when was your last exam, etc. I brought him my old pills (Ortho-Tri Cyclin Lo), and he told me he would prescribe me a very similar tri-phasal pill (Ange 28), and gave me a three month prescription to boot (which is great, because some Japanese doctors will only prescribe month by month)! After the initial questions, I had the exam and that was it. He told me results would be back in about three business days, and I asked if he could e-mail me the results because of my work hours.

I waited in the lobby for about ten minutes, and they brought me my pills and then I paid. The total amount I spent that day was about ¥9000 (sorry, I lost the receipt for the actual exam costs >.<). The three month supply of pills was ¥6930, which means my exam was about ¥2000. I was initially surprised because I thought that the pap test wasn't covered by insurance here, but it was. Of course, the Pill is not covered by insurance here, but not outrageously expensive either. When I need to get more, I just need to call them I think and have a short talk with the doctor, and he should prescribe another three months.

Overall, the experience was not any more unpleasant than usual. The clinic staff were great, and I'm tempted to use the dentist there too for cleaning (I have a veneer on a tooth and am super paranoid about getting my teeth worked on).

Hopefully this post helps any ladies feel more informed about getting the test done here in Japan. It really isn't that bad, and was more nervous than I should have been. Being in a foreign country can really make normal things seem a bit more intimidating however. 


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