If you feel worried about cervical screening appointments with a gynaecologist London-based, you are certainly not the only one. With the prospect of a cold speculum and a stranger inspecting you to contend with, it is no surprise that many women suffer from fear of cervical screening.
In fact, a staggering 1 in 4 women avoid cervical screening altogether. The problem is, cervical screening is important for spotting cervical cancer, the most common cancer in women under 35 – and one of the most preventable.
Gynaecological cancer screening is estimated to save 5,000 lives a year, but a recent study conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that body shame is one of the main reasons women do not show up for their screening appointments. Other reasons can include negative previous experiences, sexual abuse and embarrassment.
Preparing for cervical screening
The more you can break the fear before your appointment, the more you can think of a solution or a way of helping to manage those feelings. Therapy can help with this if you had any traumatic experiences that put you off attending, you may need to work through with the therapist first, before taking the test. It can also be a good idea to book an appointment for simply talking through the procedure, so you know exactly what to expect and your clinician can make better understand your anxiety.
Things to consider to help you feel less anxious include:
Position: the traditional position of lying down, knees out could be difficult or painful for some people to get into, for example, it could leave them feeling too vulnerable or there is a disability to consider. Another position that you could try involves lying on your side with your knees to your chest. The test taker can then take the sample from behind. Perhaps you can experiment to find the position that works best for you and where your clinician has a clear view of and can access your cervix.
Sometimes stirrups can help or they may leave you feeling too exposed or too restricted. Remember that you can request whether or not to use them and that you are in control.
Distraction: Consider bringing something with you to occupy the senses, perhaps something to hold, aromatherapy, your favourite music or podcast to listen to. You can also bring a friend or family member.