Women find smear tests stressful

A more personalised approach is needed for cervical smear tests as a study claims women find them humiliating and stressful

A new study, published in the international journal Family Practice, has found that most women’s experiences of having a cervical smear are negative, with many finding the approach impersonal causing anxiety and pain.

The test for cervical cancer, which killed Jade Goody at the age of 27, is essential but researchers from the University of Leicester say the current screening process puts women through stress and humiliation.

‘Attitudes towards cervical smears remain something of a paradox,’ says Dr Natalie Armstrong.

‘On one hand, screening appears to command impressive levels of public support, but on the other hand there is considerable evidence suggesting that individual women find the experience of the screening problematic.’

Many of the 34 women questioned for the study say they were not always treated with kindness and sensitivity during a smear test, which involves removing cells from the cervix.

‘Women can feel passive, helpless and vulnerable in the face of a situation where they risk pain and discomfort, shame and humiliation, and violation and invasion of privacy,’ says Dr Armstrong.

Her findings have led her to call for a more personalised approach to what is a daunting process for many women.

‘Ignoring women’s fears, anxieties and concerns can appear to deny the reality, or at least the validity, of women’s emotional responses,’ she says. ‘There is unlikely to be a one size fits all solution.’

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