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#SmearForSmear 2021: Be Kind

Posted on: Sunday, 24th January 2021 by Kate Sanger, Head of Communications and Public Affairs

A lot has changed since last Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. However your year has panned out, it’s safe to say most of us have had a lot on our plate. There have been new stresses and challenges to contend with and finding the positives hasn’t always been easy. 

"Smear tests have been made much harder by the pandemic"

One small silver lining that we have seen in action on social media and in our online Forum, is that people have rallied round each other to help out. Our amazing community have encouraged each other to keep talking, to stay connected and to share tips and support. Whether you’ve been waiting for results, dealing with delays to appointments, or just trying to stay positive during lockdowns we hope if you needed support, you found it.

During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we would ask you to keep this in mind. As always we’re going to be talking lots about smear tests. They’re the best protection against cervical cancer, but they can be a difficult test at the best of times and they’ve been made much harder by the pandemic. There are many reasons for this – from fewer appointments being available, difficulty travelling to your GP, to shielding, or being uncertain about whether or not to go. 

"Social media is a great place to share health information"

We also know that the reasons that people found smear tests difficult before the pandemic have not gone away. In fact, the pandemic might have made them even worse. Lots of people are feeling more anxious, more uncertain, or missing conversations with family and friends. 

So this year, we’re asking you to be kind when you get involved in the campaign and talk about smear tests. Yes, smear tests are still really important. They save lives. And social media is a great place to share health information. But we want to encourage people to talk about their concerns or issues with the test by having supportive conversations, and listening to their questions.

"We need to listen, support and be kind"

Saying someone is ‘silly, or ‘making excuses’ for not attending right now is not going to make them feel any more able to go. But by recognising the difficulties and highlighting where support and tips are, we can help. We’ve seen a huge shift towards these kinds of wonderful conversations in recent months, and we see the good they do; social media can help break down smear test stigmas, provide much needed information or simply remind people about attending. 

However, we totally recognise that not every issue with smear tests can be solved with a social media post. There are really complex barriers to attendance for some people, and sadly we can’t get rid of Covid either! But in order to raise awareness of the barriers, and find out what kind of support people need, we need to listen, support and be kind. 

"We don’t want to isolate those who are already finding the test hard"

We want every woman or person with a cervix to feels equally supported and included in the conversation, especially at this really difficult time. We don’t want to isolate those who are already finding the test hard, however well-meaning the messages are.

We look forward to seeing your #SmearForSmear posts over the next week. By smearing your lipstick you can grab the attention of your friends and followers and provide them with messages about how they can prevent getting a cervical cancer diagnosis.

If you have or have had cervical cancer we know it can be a difficult week for you too. Please don’t forget we are here for you.

Being kind when you talk about smear tests:

  • Acknowledge that it is not always easy
  • Avoid language that takes away choice or makes assumptions about how others may feel
  • Ask what someone finds difficult about the test
  • Share our tips and information pages
  • Share your own tips
  • Point towards our Helpline: At Jo’s we’re here to support those who are nervous or have questions. The volunteers who staff our Helpline are there to listen, to understand and to be non-judgemental
  • Talk about the support others can provide on our Forum where many people share their experiences and ask questions about cervical screening and beyond