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Readers Respond: Reasons women avoid Pap smears: Is it fair to require them for birth control?

Responses: 195

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Updated October 14, 2010

This is my life

I didn't want this ugliness in my life. Like the last poster, our doctors have never said a word to me about pelvic exams. Breast exams, our doctors have been told never to do them unless a woman is complaining of a breast problem. Research clearly showed they were ineffective and all the biopsies are a risk factor for cancer itself. My GP got a circular from the medical society warning all doctors to stop any routine exams of the breast. (if they were doing it out of habit or some other reason) I don't want screening. It's an ugly business that causes more ugly business. This cancer would have to be very common for me to bother with it. All of this would take the pleasure out of my life. Having treatment is so common too, signing up for smears means signing up for a cone biopsy or something just as bad. I've looked at the risks and am more than happy to accept them. I hate the way our bodies are not regarded as ours by some doctors(not mine) and I feel very sorry for US women.
—Guest Lila

Lucky me!

I'm a 51 year old woman who has never had a smear test. I work in medical research and knew screening was a long shot. The chance of it helping me was miniscule and the Australian program carries a very high risk of biopsies. (about 75-80% from memory)I did think of having them every 10 years, but looking at the numbers, it didn't seem worth the worry when it still carried a fairly high chance of biopsies. (30%) Our doctors don't do routine pelvic or breast exams. I know breast exams were done years ago, but fewer doctors do them these days because they result in biopsies and don't really help. I'd refuse a routine breast exam and a routine pelvic exam is just ridiculous - no healthy woman needs that. If you don't know the clinical value of these exams, you're not really in a position to judge whether the benefits are worth the risks. I believe the benefits are unproven or very low for all these exams and the risks well known and often quite high.
—Guest Eve

Put off

All of these rules put me off a relationship. I prefer to be single and in control of my body and health. It really frightens me to hear what women must go through to get pills. All of this puts me off sex. I'll get a dog for company. Next thing will be celibate women who live with dogs are high risk for cervical cancer. Nothing would surprise me. Doctors would stoop to anything to use women and make more money.
—Guest YC

I can't do it...

I can't "prostitute" myself to get BC. That's what it sounds like to me. My husband and I were teenage sweethearts but no sex until we were 19. Looking at the risks for this cancer, they fall into sexual activity of the woman or her partner. I have a right to make my own assessment of risk, both ways - of cancer and testing. I don't wish to risk painful treatment when my risk of this cancer is very low. If doctors' don't like that, too bad. I use HOPE and the Dr there understands my feelings but is "obliged" to recommend pelvic exams and pap smears. I'll keep using HOPE and if it's discontinued, we'd go back to condoms and fertility awareness. Preventative things will be my decision. If I'm sick, having health problems or pregnant, I'm more likely to agree to an exam. I wouldn't allow myself to be over-examined though. I know our doctors also do far too many internal exams during pregnancy as well. I wouldn't agree to that.
—Guest Prue W

Are women inferior?

I don't understand why women are treated so disrespectfully and unfairly with cancer screening. Men are given the facts and are free to make a choice. Why are their rights respected and ours are irrelevant? Prostate cancer is terribly common, cervical cancer is not, yet men have the right to refuse. Every message we receive is that screening is mandatory. Doctors even devise plans to force screening onto us like holding Pills. Even senior people in medicine seem to accept this as acceptable. It seems women are still fighting for basic rights.
—Guest Annette

The hidden downside...

There are a group of women rarely mentioned by doctors. Many women forced into screening end up being hurt. My sister was so devastated mentally by a procedure after a false positive that she ended her engagement. She felt degraded, dirty and was turned off sex. She has avoided men and doctors ever since and I doubt she'll ever recover.(9 years now)We only found out it was a false positive when she asked for the pathology. We were worried if she had "cancer" she might need chemo. No cancer or any other problem. She was never asked whether she wanted the test, never told the risks and had to get a second opinion from a family friend (Dr) on the pathology. She had been told, "you're lucky this time, you won't need any further treatment", clearly to make her feel grateful and to hide the fact the test was wrong. We never hear about these women. It's quite common for women to have all sorts of problems after treatment. Dr's don't want you to know about this large group of women.
—Guest Catherine

I noticed that as well...

I also worked in Sacramento for 3 years and couldn't get the Pill during my stay. I was quite amazed when the nurse asked me to totally undress and put the sheet of paper over me. I naturally refused and left the Clinic. I was horrified at the exposure and the callous use of stirrups. I contacted my GP at home in tears and she arranged the Pills for me. I had my blood pressure checked at the chemist. I also had to answer some health questions over the phone. She said the exams were of "no clinical value" when a woman is free of symptoms. She also said early and too frequent cervical screening caused lots of problems and served no useful purpose at all. These practices are the reason almost all of you will have biopsies, LEEP etc. I cannot imagine how you endure those exams. I can understand why some women stay away from the Dr. It's inhuman to treat women like that and seems unique to the States. Don't allow them to treat you like a slab of meat meat. Say NO and claim your rights.
—Guest Fran

What is wrong with your "doctors"?

I studied in the States for 5 years and was puzzled why women felt they needed these internal stirrup checks. They caused such distress and embarrassment. Our doctors think your doctors are total nuts. My doctor's advice was to refuse all of it for the sake of my health. The mental damage to your women is so sad, dehumanizing. The pap smear demands are also unacceptable. Cancer screening is always optional. It is more important for some women, less impt for others, but always the woman's decision. I haven't decided whether I'll have screening. It will be offered when I turn 30 and then every 5 years until I'm 50 or 60. I DO know one thing though, it will be MY decision and my Dr would never demand anything of me. I think your doctors have forgotten what medicine is all about. They have no respect for the rights of women...they're dictators. Be careful women of America! You deserve better, a lot better.
—Guest Annika

No informed consent for women!

If we're going to forget about informed consent and allow doctors to break the law, why only include women? Why not mandatory rectal exams for men whenever they need drugs? Of course, that would be ridiculous and unacceptable, yet so many people will say forced smears are for a woman's own good. Yet they would say my former example was outrageous. It is equally outrageous to do this to women. Even in 2009 our rights fall way behind the rights of men. The approval and promotion of forced smears is really an oppressive and warped way of thinking...and many of these people probably think they're intelligent and fair people and maybe even advocates for women's health! Having a penetrative vaginal exam forced on you can cause enormous and lasting psychological damage. I have no respect for people who promote this abuse of rights and body. We need to take legal action to end this once and for all.
—Guest Jana

Demands "forced" research

I might have considered smears (never pelvic or breast exams) if I'd been treated like an adult. That didn't happen, so I looked into this testing. I was fearful...doctors and others tend to make out no smears mean you'll definitely get cancer. When I saw how uncommon this cancer is and compared it to other sorts of cancer, I was pleased I'd been forced to look up the facts. Lung cancer kills a lot more women than cervical cancer (1 in 25 as opposed to 1 in about 200) No one walks around worrying about lung cancer. It was later I heard this test was not all they claim it is. It's a bit like sorting avocados the wrong way - rather than looking for signs they might be bad, you cut them all open until you find a bad one. You triumphantly say, you found a bad one and hope like hell no one asks about all the mutilated perfectly healthy ones at your feet. VERY PLEASED I was forced to research this topic. I use HOPE and before that we used condoms.
—Guest Wendy

Check on-line

There are a few on-line pharmacies that ship Yasmin and lots of other Pills all over the world. You don't need a script or on line consultation. I have my blood pressure checked by a pharmacist every 3 months. I lost all respect for the medical profession when I realized what they were asking of me just to get my Pills. No way - I have rights. I'm very low risk for this cancer and don't want the testing. Pelvic exams are something that should be used only when women have a health problem...to force them on healthy women is absurd and almost sadistic. UK and Australian doctors have told me that pelvic and breast exams just lead to more probing or biopsies. I've had no problems at all getting the Pill. If you can't work with doctors, you have to find another way. Going through all of that when I knew it was not needed or should be my choice, would have felt like an assault.
—Guest Clare T

I'm free

My partner just had a vasectomy and got the all-clear on Thursday. I won't need birth control anymore. For the first time in many years it will be my decision when and why I see a Dr. After so many years of being forced to have exams, I'm deeply resentful. I won't be having any more gyn exams, they ARE unnecessary for any symptom-free woman. Smears - forget it. I'm more afraid of another biopsy than I am of rare cervical cancer. I'm so over this whole extortion racket they call womens health. I'm free, free at last!
—Guest Jenny

What "rule"?

"whether this "rule" has encouraged you to be proactive about taking care of your health when you might have otherwise avoided the exam."(Quote) It is not possible to "avoid" an exam that is optional. It amazes me that so many doctors and educated people all accept women have no choice with screening. If you choose not to screen, the clear inference is you're being childish, irresponsible or reckless. No one would say a man is any of those things for choosing not to screen. This is paternalism passed down to the next generation. When will women be free of these chains? You also cannot make screening a rule, it's illegal. Informed consent is a legal requirement for screening. It will be my choice whether I have screening of any sort - no rules, no requirements and avoidance doesn't come into it. If your doctor refuses you a script, speak to an attorney or go to a community legal office...the doctor is breaking the law. One letter is usually enough to remind them.
—Guest Irene

My husband gave me the information

My husband is a pathologist. When we started dating he mentioned his concerns about screening and annual gyn exams. He gave me lots of information he felt I should read before agreeing to annuals & smears. I was really shocked & angry to see doctors have totally misrepresented the situation to us. I don't have routine exams, in fact, to say a healthy woman needs those sorts of intimate checks is dishonest and untrue. If it provides you with reassurance (false or otherwise) then fine - but your doctor should tell you it's of no/low value & has risks. Doctor won't be honest - it's easy and big money. Smears - If you're not happy to have a colposcopy and cryotherapy or biopsies, then look at your risk profile for cervical cancer. My risk was about 0.20% while the risk of cryo or biopsies about 96%...easy decision for me. It upsets me that women are being humiliated, harmed, deceived and manipulated - and that is the majority of women. Don't believe a word of it, find an honest source.
—Guest Anita J

Go to Mexico or HK or the UK...

It is coercion and I won't permit it. You can get birth control without exams either by using HOPE or picking them up in another country. (Mexico is close by for us) I travel for work as well and have used doctors in London and Hong Kong. I've never had any trouble at all. Like the previous poster, a blood pressure check and a few questions about my history is all that's required. I think women should speak to foreign doctors when you have the chance (not Germany, they are excessive as well) It's clear women are treated very differently in other countries. No gyn exams and although cervical screening is pushed...I've never been denied birth control when I refuse the test.
—Guest Anna

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Reasons women avoid Pap smears: Is it fair to require them for birth control?

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