A very vulnerable woman sits on a hospital bed with her feet propped up and legs very shaky with nerves.

We Need Better Support During Cervical Testing

Last updated: September 2019

Cervical cancer and HPV are diseases that can be detected through cervical tests. A lot of women don’t go for their regular Pap smear for a host of reasons. Recently, I’ve seen more women on social medial being vocal about getting their cervical tests, some even going as far as filming their experience to show how easy it is. There are also regular campaigns aimed at getting women to have their tests done – most of which use guilt as tactics. “A simple smear can save your life”, they will say. They imply that there is no good reason not to get a cervical test. “Just a bit of discomfort.”

For endo warriors, it's different

These campaigns, as well-meaning as they are, really rub me the wrong way. For some women, endometriosis sufferers among them, getting a cervical smear is a horrifying experience. One they would do almost anything to avoid. Vaginal examinations are invasive procedures, and when you know you’re going to be in pain for days after, it’s not really a wonder that some women hesitate to get a cervical test.

Why I stopped getting Pap smears

I don’t get cervical tests anymore, as I’ve had a hysterectomy, along with which I also had my cervix removed. But I stopped getting cervical tests five to ten years before I had my hysterectomy. At first, when my endometriosis wasn’t so bad, it was just a few hours of discomfort after the fact. However, as my endometriosis progressed, the pain got worse, to the point that I was in significant pain during the examination and for days after. I would have to take heavy painkillers to deal with the cramping, and I would always bleed. It didn’t seem worth it for me.

We deserve better

There does not seem to be much support for women who suffer from endometriosis and who would want to have cervical testing done. The campaigns are right: what should be a simple test could save your life. But when you’re not at risk for cervical cancer and you know how much pain you’ll have to endure for the test, it becomes very hard to see the justification. And it comes off as patronizing and insulting when other women, and medical professionals, shrug off cervical testing as no big deal. Something you’ll just have to put up with as "part of being a woman".

Medical staff should be better trained to support women who suffer from any type of vaginal pain during cervical tests. Cervical tests should be available for all women, not just the ones who are lucky enough not to experience any vaginal pain. It’s bad enough that we have to suffer for year before getting a diagnosis, we shouldn’t have to put our health at risk because nurses can’t provide support during testing. Mind you, I don’t know what that support would look like. Better pain medication? Local anesthetics? At the very least medical staff, should be more understanding and try to create a safe and relaxing environment.

What about you? Have you ever skipped cervical testing because you couldn’t bear the pain?

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