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We’ve released a new report today highlighting a barrier to cervical screening which is frankly disgraceful: physical disability. We were shocked by what we found.
Two thirds of women with a physical disability say they have been unable to attend cervical screening because of their disability. We heard from others who have been told they can’t have a test and worryingly numbers who have faced stigma and misconceptions along the way.
Smear tests can be difficult for a variety of reasons, but some women can face additional barriers to getting tested. This includes women with a range of physical disabilities such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. While in some areas women are able to access smear tests, whether through home visits, equipped GPs or provision to attend in other settings such hospitals, this is unequal across the county and mean some women are missing out on tests that could potentially save their lives.
Please be aware that this blog contains content that may be distressing to read.
There are lots reasons why women and people with a cervix find it hard to go for cervical screening (smear tests). The Hawa Trust work with communities affected by FGM and we spoke with Hawa Sesay, their Executive Director, about the experience of screening for women who have undergone FGM.
This blog was originally written for the LGBT Foundation
According to the LGBT Foundation, 17.8% of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) women of eligible screening age (25 to 64) have never been for cervical screening.
Cervical screening (often called a smear test), prevents up to 75% of cervical cancers developing and not attending is actually the biggest risk factor to developing cervical cancer.
There are many reasons which can make attending smear tests difficult. Things such as fear, embarrassment, anxiety and a previous bad experience can all mean even taking the first step to book an appointment can be hard. However another barrier to smear tests is physically being able to access the test and more and more women are telling us that they are struggling to get appointments.
If you have had a bad experience at a smear test, it can understandably have a negative impact on how you feel about going for a test in the future.
While smear tests are not pleasant and can be uncomfortable or difficult for many reasons, the majority of women do not have a bad experience. When women do have bad experiences, it is sometimes a combination of several factors instead of just one thing, these reasons can be very personal and varied.
As part of our new blog series "Let's talk about it" Louise Cadman, Research Nurse Consultant at Queen Mary University of London and on the Management Committee of the My Body Back Project, addresses some of the issues around having a smear test after experiencing sexual violence (***Trigger warning: this blog is about sexual violence***).