They’re crucial for our health, but they simply aren’t accessible.
In 2009, there was a huge rise in demand for cervical screening tests following Jade Goody exposing her cervical cancer diagnosis that ultimately caused her death. However, the number of people getting tested has since dropped.
A cervical cancer screening takes cells from your cervix and tests them to make sure there are no traces of cancer. If cervical cancer is caught early enough, it’s very easy to cure. But if it’s not picked up quickly enough, it’s a killer. That’s why the screenings are extremely important. But the way in which the screenings are carried out is difficult for many women.
“The way in which the screenings are carried out is difficult for many women.”
Firstly, to take off your pants and open your legs in front of a stranger doesn’t feel natural for many women. In fact, it can be extremely unnatural and abnormal to some people. That in itself can be scary enough, but it’s without even acknowledging the pain element.
Lubrication is put on the device that’s inserted inside your cervix to help, but this can still be very uncomfortable for many people. When the device is opened in order for the nurse to see inside your cervix, it can become even more uncomfortable and painful. A brush is then inserted to take the cells that will be examined. It’s a quick process, but it can be uncomfortable and painful for patients.
It may also be an even more distressing experience for people who have been through trauma. Genital mutilation and sexual abuse are just two examples of acts that can make a cervical screening test a patient’s worst nightmare. No matter how lovely the nurses are – and most really do try their hardest to make you feel as comfortable as possible – nothing makes this experience easier for people that have been through trauma.
There is also a serious issue with how the tests are marketed. It’s extensively aimed towards women, which excludes the trans community. Not only does this fail trans people, but it can increase anxiety of an already scary procedure.
These tests are vital for a healthy cervix. They can save your life. But the way in which these tests are carried out is impersonal, uncomfortable, painful, and can be terrifying. A more humane way of testing for cervical cancer has to be found. Whether that’s finding a way for women to carry out the test by themselves at home (that’s as precise as a test at your local GP’s), or another test by a nurse or doctor that’s more comfortable and accessible for all.
While the pressure being put on women to attend their smear tests is understandable, it isn’t fair or reasonable. It completely diminishes the difficulty that victims of trauma face. Not only that, it’s an attempt at normalising something that quite frankly isn’t seen as “normal” by some, and never will be. We must listen to why so many people aren’t attending their cervical screening tests, and find a different, more accessible way to prevent this type of cancer.