Our #CervicalScreeningRedTape campaign aims to highlight the fact that many disabled women are finding it difficult to access cervical screening.
Common barriers to accessing cervical screening are:
- Disabled women not being offered a smear test as it is often assumed that they are not sexually active and are less likely to need a test.
- Physical barriers such as a lack of non-adjustable beds in GP surgeries.
- Fear. Due to a previously negative experience. Or a self-consciousness as their body may differ to what they believe medical staff are used to seeing.
- Expense. Often disabled women have to travel further than their local surgery to attend an accessible clinic.
What can be done to improve access to smear tests for disabled women? Below are four potential solutions.
- Recognise that disabled adults can enjoy an active sex life and offer as standard cervical screening and sexual health tests.
- Ask what an individual’s needs are. If your surgery does not have accessible facilities that meet the needs of a disabled patient, then have a procedure in place where you can offer an alternative location. This saves both you and the disabled woman a lot of time and effort phoning around. Read Emily’s blog for a real-life example.
- Realise that standard procedures won’t work for everyone. For example, due to physicality it may be easier for a woman to have a smear lying on her side rather than on her back. We are all different, and often know our bodies well. So if it’s feasible to do things differently, be willing to give it a try.
- Most women are apprehensive about having a smear test but for many disabled women there is an extra layer of nervousness. Reassurance prior to the test being booked can help alleviate this fear.
We fully appreciate the challenges our NHS is facing during the pandemic and know that wait times may be longer than usual, however we hope our solutions can become best practice.
Undressing Disability Podcast
Dr Larisa Corda OBGYN and presenter Sam Renke are guests on Episode 2 of our Undressing Disability podcast. Joined by our CEO Jennie Williams they share personal experiences of the issues around accessing cervical screening raised in this #CervicalScreeningRedTape campaign.
Emily wrote about her experience as a wheelchair user of trying to access her first ever smear test in this blog article.
The Undressing Disability Hub
Last year we launched our Undressing Disability Hub which is free to join. It is full of free resources on topics relating to sex and disability. Members include professionals working in the fields of medicine, psychology, and care homes. As well as sex educators and those searching for a safe network to learn and share information on the topic of sex and disability.
Worried about Cervical Screening?
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is a charity which provides information and support on the topic of cervical cancer. Their website https://www.jostrust.org.uk/ is full of valuable insight and they do an incredible job raising awareness and saving lives with their work.
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