Cervical smears: a necessary but highly unpleasant experience

Posted by fi17 at Nov 21, 2011 12:40 PM |
Research conducted at the University reveals many women have negative experiences of cervical smear tests, often finding them stressful and embarrassing
Cervical smears: a necessary but highly unpleasant experience

Dr Natalie Armstrong

New research published in the international journal Family Practice has found that women's experiences of cervical smear tests are often painful, humiliating and stressful. Dr Natalie Armstrong from our Department of Health Sciences conducted the research with colleagues from Leicester and Glasgow Caledonian University, and found that although cervical screening is broadly supported, experiences of the test itself are far from positive.

The screening process involves using special instruments to take cells from the cervix, and testing the sample for signs of cervical cancer. By its very nature the test requires women to remove their clothes in front of a virtual stranger - hardly an experience likely to inspire comfort and relaxation. Women interviewed for the study reported that the test can leave them feeling passive, helpless and vulnerable. Doctors and nurses may have carried out dozens of screenings and treat the process as routine, but to the women involved it remains highly intimate and an invasion of privacy that can cause stress and embarrassment.

Many women expressed disappointment about the manner of health professionals who carried out their tests. Dr Armstrong believes doctors and nurses who carry out such screenings need to be more aware of women's concerns, and do more to put women at their ease and address their concerns and anxieties.

The story has featured on the BBC News and in the Daily Mail.