Cervical Screening Lies: Part 1

30 Dec

[Trigger warning for medical coercion and abuse.]

Women, particularly in the U.S., have been conned into believing that pap smears are a necessary, frequent screening that they must endure, either so they can have access to oral contraceptives or so they feel “proactive” and “responsible” for their health. This is a bunch of rubbish.

I have gone through two pap smears, both before age 20, because guidelines at the time said it was necessary and I believed I was required to submit in order to get birth control pills. In my case, and surely the case of millions of other women, informed consent was absent when I made the decision to get cervical cancer screening.

I have compiled a great number of links so that every woman may educate herself about this procedure and the lies we are told so we will not resist having this done to us. Know that you are not alone in questioning this screening.

Dr. Joel Sherman argues that informed consent is missing from cervical cancer screening.

The facts are that cervical cancer is a rare disease in the US, a point which is never made. The American Cancer Society (ACS) predicts that there will be just over 11,000 cases in 2009. There will be nearly as many cases of testicular cancer, 8,400. In comparison both breast and prostate cancer are just under 200,000. Most women have been led to believe that cervical cancer is rampant and they need yearly screening to prevent it. Testicular cancer however, is rarely mentioned. Most physicians don’t even bother to recommend that young men self-examine. [. . .]

Informed consent on cervical cancer screening is completely lacking in this country. Women are told that they need Pap tests, but rarely told if they might not need them or asked if they want them. The ratio of negative biopsies and colposcopies to cases of cervical cancer is very high given the rarity of cervical cancer. If women are given brochures, they are for the sole purpose of convincing them to get regular testing.

From the comments section of the above article, many women share their experiences of being pressured into getting screening:

“No one can say the benefits far outweigh the risks FOR ME. It is unacceptable to suggest that others can make that call for me.”

“Almost all of my friends have had abnormal smears that all turned out to be clear….nothing to worry about at all. Of course, in the meanwhile, I had friends writing their Wills, in floods of tears, unable to sleep or eat, worried sick…this is unfair and very bad for your health.”

“I had a bad asthma attack recently and decided to see the family doctor first thing in the morning. I had the day off work. I barely sat down when the doctor said, “when was your last pap smear?…we can take care of it right now”…. I explained that I was more concerned about my asthma. The back and forth continued – all about smears. It was only when I got up to leave that the Dr finally moved on to my asthma. There was no giving up though….at the end of the consult it was mentioned again. I almost shouted, “I don’t feel well and don’t want a pap smear!” I felt the consult did not really deal with my asthma as that topic was rushed. I was spoken to like a stubborn child. [. . .] I feel pursued by doctors about smears…like a fugitive on the run.”

“I have felt pursued, insulted, over-whelmed, embarrassed and anxious as a result of the attitude of our doctors.”

Anna Sayburn writes in The Guardian in 2003, “Why I’ll never have another smear test”.

Last month, the British Medical Journal published research that suggests that I, and millions of other women, may have been wasting our time. In order to save one life from cervical cancer, the research found, 1,000 women would need to be screened for 35 years. [. . .]

So it comes down to the level of risk with which we are happy to live. And now that I know my likelihood of an abnormal smear is so much higher than ever having cervical cancer, I think I’ll take my chances until the test improves. What does [emeritus professor of surgery at University College London and cancer screening expert] Michael Baum think of my decision?

“You are not being irresponsible or reckless. You are making a serious, thoroughly well-informed choice and I would like to extend that choice to all women,” he says. I wonder how long it will take the rest of the medical profession to come round to his point of view.

From Reuters, “Women seeking birth control get unneeded pelvic exams”.

In a survey of 1,200 U.S. doctors and advanced practice nurses, researchers found that one-third said they always required women to have a pelvic exam before they would write a prescription for birth control pills.

An even higher percentage — 44 percent — said they “usually” required one, according to findings published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The number of practitioners requiring a pelvic exam is disappointingly high, researchers say, considering the fact that the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advise that birth control pills can safely be prescribed without the exam.

LA Times: “Cancer screening: What could it hurt? A lot, actually”.

A study published this spring in Annals of Family Medicine found that 60% of men and 49% of women had gotten at least one false positive during three years of routine screenings for ovarian, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. As a result, 22% of those women and 29% of those men had an invasive diagnostic procedure, the study found.

The Independent: “Cervical screening, part 2: Abnormal smears not surprisingly set the alarm bells ringing about cancer, but screening itself is to blame for spreading fear”.

The educational intervention was designed to lower anxiety by providing information and diagrams to give both knowledge and a sense of perspective. “An abnormal smear test does not mean cancer. It is just a risk factor. Likewise, smoking does not mean you’ll get lung cancer. It just increases your risk of it.” [. . .]

Two hundred and forty women with mildly abnormal smears were randomised into two groups, one receiving the educational package, one not. On the plus side, those women who had the package were found to have more knowledge about mildly abnormal smears, and were glad of it. But, alas, they were no less anxious than the package- free women.

BBC: “GPs ‘bully women into smears for cash'”.

“We want women to give their informed consent to having a smear test, at the moment the system we have leads to a lot of women being worried unnecessarily by propaganda.”

BBC: “Smear test age limit to remain 25”.

One in three women under the age 25 will have an abnormal result compared with one in 14 for older women, meaning there would be many false positives.

On cervical cancer screening in Australia (article from 2004):

More than 95% of infections are thought to clear naturally within three years, but on average it takes at least five years for persistent infection to lead to cancer.

Financial Times (UK) Blog: “Health and Cervical Screening: Emotion vs Evidence”, on the UK’s guidelines of screening women above age 25.

The chances of any women benefiting from cervical smears between 20-24 are minimal, as a study in the BMJ shows: Effectiveness of cervical screening with age: population based case-control study of prospectively recorded data.

In fact, there has been no clear evidence for benefit up till now. Why is this important? Women in this age group are at risk of “false positives”, ie the smear detecting an abnormality when the cellular changes are not dangerous and would not have led to invasive cancer. They might receive treatments for these changes – but treatments they will not benefit from, because these changes would never have led to a life-threatening cancer.

“Cervical Cancer Screening: When to Begin?” (New Zealand, 2007).

A recent World Health Organisation guide on cervical cancer control recommends:

• new programmes should start screening women aged 30 years or more
• existing programmes should not include women less than 25 years of age
• a five-year screening interval is appropriate for women over 50 years
• a three-year interval is considered appropriate in the age group 25-49 years
• annual screening is not recommended at any age
• screening is not necessary for women over 65 years provided the last two previous smears were negative.

European guidelines recommend screening for cervical abnormalities “starting at the age of 30 and definitely not before the age of 20”.

“Smear test ‘no benefit’ in early 20s”, discusses results of an NHS (UK) study.

Here’s a very long, very informative (very triggering!) thread with women sharing experiences in which their wishes as patients were not taken seriously, particularly with regard to pap tests. Lots of discussion about informed consent.

Harvard Women’s Law Journal: “Pelvic exam prerequisite to hormonal contraceptives: Unjustified infringement on constitutional rights, governmental coercion, and bad public policy” by Heather S. Dixon (PDF)

The Guardian: Clare Allan, “Why I’m never going to have another smear test: For women with mental health problems, learning disabilities or a history of sexual abuse, smear tests can be especially traumatic. Why doesn’t the medical profession know this?” [Trigger warning for a stock image of ‘woman at the gynecologist’. Damn I hate those.]

Fabulous thesis by Natalie Armstrong, “Cervical Screening: Women’s Resistance to the Official Discourse” (opens as PDF). It’s almost 300 pages, but completely useful. She brings in Foucaudian stuff about domination and control (biopower) through the medical establishment, regulation of women’s bodies, and lots more. It’s just awesome and totally validates my existing ideas about what these “preventative measures” and other procedures are actually doing to women.

More academic/theory articles about the medical surveillance of women will be included in part two.

[Update 1/4/11: The articles in this post and many others can be found at Violet-to-Blue, a site which has compiled and categorized tons of information on this topic.]

55 Responses to “Cervical Screening Lies: Part 1”

  1. Boner Killer December 30, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    Thank you so much rffor posting this. This has been something that has been bothering me for years. Now that i am 21, I am told every time i see a doctor that I need to get my first pap. I try and tell them, “No, i’m not at any risk, i’ve never had sex (not PIV) (i’m asexual) So i don’t think i’m in much danger of contracting cervical cancer (which is all that paps can test for anyway) since cervical cancer risk is amplified by risk of HPV which comes with PIV sex.

    I HATE IT. I have no desire to have some dude shove a plastic contrapton inside of me. I am also disgusted that so many female friends of mine are unable to obtain birth control without submitting to a pap smear they don’t want. It scares me how much control doctors think they have over women. They trick us and lie to us and make us feel like we’re sick and “wrong” when we’re not!!!

    It is perfect timing, too, I need to make a doctor’s apt. soon so I can have my blood work etc checked. However, I am terrified. The last time i went in, he said “Next time, a physical with pap” without even ASKING me! Hell no! I hate having to explain my sexual orientation to them, too. they will say i have a medical disorder etc. It drives me mad!
    It’s amazing what we can learn if we just dig a bit. It’s amazing how many women can see the reality of how the medical field treats us like diseased “things” instead of humans. We are always prodded at and told we’re “wrong” either too fat, not participating in enough PIV etc.
    Anyway, the point about testicular cancer was very interesting. I never hear anything about it. These stories from women have really given me a lot of courage to head to the doctor and stand up for myself. I don’t have to do what they want me to do. i don’t have to give them my bodily integrity. Fuck that. It disgusts me that such systematic brain washing goes on…so many women aren’t given REAL choices about birth control. It is not CHOICE when someone is made to go through a pap smear in order to obtain birth control. Shows how much more feminism needs to get done!

    Thanks so much for this!!!

    • lishra January 2, 2011 at 4:39 am #

      I’m glad this post and these links helped you!

      Stick to your guns and be adamant about it. When I saw my doctor last month (blood pressure check to make sure my birth control was still safe ‘n’ good), she tried to persuade me to get the test… for thirty minutes! (This, after saying last year that I was a ‘big girl’ and could make my own decisions, that she wouldn’t hold my birth control pills hostage if I didn’t get it done). I had brought a fact sheet including lots of the info from the links above (and even got it out at one point). I left sobbing and totally broke down when I got home, though I DID get my renewed birth control prescription. I’ll be doing a post about that whole ordeal I think… ugg. But, hey, it did work. And you especially have absolutely no reasons for needing the test, so I hope you fare even better! Good luck!

    • sellmaeth June 13, 2015 at 11:25 am #

      “I hate having to explain my sexual orientation to them, too. they will say i have a medical disorder etc. It drives me mad!”

      You could tell them you’re saving yourself for marriage and haven’t found the right guy yet.

      I have been in the situation of having to tell doctors that I don’t have sex in my early twenties, and found that implying you are on the quest for a boyfriend and just woefully unsuccessful, gets you some pity and no questions asked.

      No idea whether it still works once you are past thirty. Probably not as well.

  2. Aileen Wuornos December 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    I second Boner Killer’s feelings! I avoided getting a pap smear for ages even though I have engaged in penetrative fucking. Three abornormal results, me freaking the FUCK out and then being sent to a gynocologist. Luckily my GYN was a womon, and she had a female nurse/assistant who were very nice and explained to me that it usually wasn’t something to worry about esp. if I hadn’t had PIV in a while.

    There was nothing wrong. In fact, cos I’d guinea pigged up and got Garadasil (The HPV vaccination) they reckon the results would have had a LOT to do with that.

    We are always prodded at and told we’re “wrong” either too fat, not participating in enough PIV etc.

    Yes! When I was anorexic, I was critised for my weight, when I was fat because of the anti depressants and anti psychotics that the doctors put me on I was critised even more.

    White, male, heterosexuals bodies are considered the “norm” in the medical INDUSTRY and the fact it’s an industry says a whole lot. It’s like with cannabis and legalisation…

    • lishra January 2, 2011 at 4:46 am #

      And if it’s not participating in enough PIV, it’s too much. My doctor said that it was good that I had been “sensible” about my number of male partners. Um, thanks?

      Also, for what it’s worth, I was also anorexic/EDNOS… so… yay for upsetting patriarchy-induced commonalities! Or something.

      • Aileen Wuornos January 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

        Oh Lishra, I hope you’re in a better place now, mentally and physically! Eating disorders can and do destroy womyn and girls.

        Mine told me I was “sensible” cos I made them wear a condom and I was on the pill, and of the number of partners. For some reason, this conversation makes me think of that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha goes to her Gyno and lists all the sexual actives she’s been involved in openly and honestly for the sake of her HEALTH and she still gets judged for it.

      • lishra January 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

        I hope you’re staying well too, Aileen! I’ve only had one “true” relapse, and feminism helped me out of it (and keeps me from falling back into that self-hatred).

        I remember that episode. (Because what else is a teenage fun fem supposed to do ‘cept watch a ton of Sex & the City?) There’s a whole deal with “being honest” about your sexual history with doctors that’s messed up. First, it seems they assume you’re lying no matter what (usually because of the woman’s age)… and second, when you do tell the truth, you get shamed for it one way or the other. Can’t win for losing, right?

      • Aileen Wuornos January 3, 2011 at 12:41 am #

        That’s excellent news Lishra. I’ve relapsed a few times, but usually a good read of some Dworkin or Daly or these blogs helps me appreciate what I have.

        Hahha, I know right about SATC. And it really is a lose-lose situation with Doctors, I remember TBL wrote an entry about it not that long ago…

  3. violet January 4, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    Cool post. I was pretty shocked as a Brit to hear about the No-Pill-Without-Paps custom in the USA – there’s no sound medical reason for this practice. Dr Sherman’s site is excellent – many of the posters on the forum provided in-depth and comprehensive academic and scientific links which about a year ago I compiled into a separate website (http://violet-to-blue.blogspot.com/
    )as the forum is a bit sprawling. I think most of the links you’ve posted are in there as well, but I’d like to link to your post as it’s an excellent summary, if that’s acceptable to yourself?

    Looking forward to reading part 2.

    • lishra January 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

      Your site is in my bookmarks right before I bookmarked a lot of these articles, so I think that’s probably where I found a lot of these links! I’ll put a mention of that in my post.

      And feel free to link to this post. Thanks, Violet.

  4. Eleutheria January 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Thank you thank you thank you.

    I’m 25. I never got a pap test or went at the gynecologist. I was always terrified by it. (I’m terrified by the concept of my orifices being penetrated and I’m hypersensitive to pain, so.) A few months ago, I shocked my (feminist, LGBTQIA-ally, etc.) therapist when I told her I never had one. She was upset because “it’s for your health!” I was bothered all through the next week, because it wasn’t the first time I felt that pressure “it’s for your health” vs “but I really don’t want to, I feel I might die if I get this, or just kick the doctor in the face”. So I discussed about it with her on the next appointment. And then She Got It (TM). She told me: “it might be a risk” (although now we know it’s not really, thanks to your awesome post and the awesome links you found) “but it’s your body, and if you don’t want something done to your body, it’s your decision; besides, you could have cancer developping anywhere else – we all could – and we wouldn’t necessarily get a early screening to check that in time.”

    My mother always told me I couldn’t get the pill without a test. I’m not sexually active, but I’ve been considering the pill lately to skip some periods and have them every 3-4 months, because I can’t stand them anymore. Apparently though, I don’t need a test – unlike what my (abusive) mother (who contributed in terrifying me on everything gender/sex/body-related) told me – and my (woman) doctor is okay with giving them to me without a test. (I live in Canada, btw. Back in the 70s though, when my mother got the pill, she needed to get a test – so maybe she didn’t really lied, and it just changed here, or I have an understanding doctor. After all, my doctor did tell me “as long as you’re not sexually active, you don’t need one”.)

    Btw, I really like your blog.

    • lishra January 6, 2011 at 1:04 am #

      I’m glad this post and the links helped you, Eleutheria. Before ever having a pelvic exam, I agonized about it and also was pretty sure I would kick my doctor in the face. I remember – and its still somewhere out there on the interwebs – posting a response to some other woman’s question online about, “Am I weird because I’m really upset about just the idea of a pelvic exam?” It was such a relief to know I wasn’t the only woman who felt this way (I was probably 16 or 17 years old at this time and considering birth control for my excruciating, irregular periods for which I thought I would need a pelvic exam).

      On your therapist finally “getting it” and your doctor being understanding…. I had something similar happen a couple years ago after writing a lengthy email to my doctor (GP) and then discussing it with her in an appointment as well. Then this year she spends half and hour totally retracting her previous statements she made to me about it being my choice, etc. It was crushing. I thought I had an awesome (kinda feminist?) doctor, and then she did that AND only refilled my contraception for half as long as she normally does. Grrr.

      And thanks… glad you like my blog!

  5. Elizabeth52 January 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    How did I miss this site?
    Congratulations and thank you for doing your bit to inform women. I’ve been posting in various places for years, but primarily at Dr Sherman’s site and at Blogcritics and Unnecessary pap smears. (over 3500 posts so far)
    I posted to both sites recently comments made by a senior Australian gyn-oncologist, admitting that “no country has reported any decline in the incidence of or mortality from cervical cancer in women under 30, irrespective of screening.” (Cervical screening pull-out feature (for doctors), Australian Doctor, 2006 by Associate Professor Margaret Davy, Director, Gyn-oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital and Dr Shorne, GP)
    In other words, screening does NOT change the tiny death rate in women under 30 and that’s why many countries don’t screen young women. It’s way more than simply putting young women through unnecessary and invasive exams, but the testing risks their health – serious risk! 1 in 3 pap smears WILL be abnormal in the under 25’s even though cancer in that age range is VERY rare – young women produce lots of false positives and this means fear and worry until you re-test 12 months later or you’re referred for colposcopy and usually some sort of biopsy. Some of those women will be left with emotional and/or physical damage.

    Our program is NOT evidence based…and stands out as excessive and inappropriate by international standards.
    We continue to screen young women despite the long-standing evidence of harm for no benefit and we continue to over-screen all women with 2 yearly testing KNOWING this increases the risk of false positives and over-treatment for little additional benefit. Some of our doctors have been calling for change for years and still we wait and harm more women. (“Time to change the Policy” by James Dickinson)

    The article on cervical screening also makes clear some women are being tested even though they won’t benefit and this risks their health. It’s doctors making decisions for us, making assumptions about all of us and accepting risk on our behalf. It’s about populations and targets and not about individuals. The only way to protect your healthy body is to make your OWN decision about screening.

    I’m in my early 50’s and has always declined cervical screening and recently also declined mammograms – both informed decisions.
    It makes me VERY happy to find sites like this one, thank goodness more women are waking up, doing their research and making informed decisions. I not anti-screening, I’m anti-dishonesty, anti-coercion, anti-unethical practices, anti-undisclosed target payments to doctors…I’m sure you understand what I’m saying…
    VERY few women are giving informed consent for cancer screening. Misinformation and lack of respect for our right to choose is the norm.
    There is virtually no discussion here about the risks of testing, the “real” benefits or informed consent.
    I look forward to visiting this site in the future – keep writing, talking and informing women!
    AND, thank you for joining the fight for women’s rights and health.

  6. Beth January 13, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    There are a whole community of us at blogcritics. There is a link above, if the link doesn’t work, then Google: “unnecessary paps,”. Our page is usually the first listed. We are organizing a movement to free birth control, stop the gynecological mutilation of women, end unnecessary cervical cancer screening and pelvic exams, and address the issue of the gross lack of truth and ethics in women’s health care. We can end this lie. Please come join us:


  7. E.J. January 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    I’m so relieved to see more truth coming out. Women in my family have been hurt by these exams. So many women have. All false positives. Women need to collectively stand up and say “No” to this exam. I walked away and will not look back. I pray more women do the same. My sincerest hope is that doctors who have caused harm to women are one day sued for the irreparable damage they have done to those women. It is trully horrifying. Thank you so much for this site.

  8. Alison January 15, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I am so pleased to find this blog! Exposing the inaccuracies, myths and violence done to women through cervical screening is an important feminist agenda.
    Thanks Lishra

  9. pmsrhino January 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Wow, I have never heard any of this info before. The only reason I get my yearly pap is because I have never had an ob/gyn prescribe me birth control without one. So If I want my pills, I have to have a pap smear. I don’t normally care that much, it’s not that uncomfortable and my family does have a history of various types of cancers so I figure why not. Of course that opinion has changed since I came home from college and got a new doctor here at home. I picked her because she was the only female ob/gyn close by that was on my insurance plan. She would let me know before she inserted the duck lips but she apparently doesn’t think she needs to give me any warning before shoving her fingers inside to check the size of my ovaries, which is kind of traumatizing for me. Thankfully I have some better insurance now and have to change my doctor, so hopefully my next doctor will be an improvement.

    I do wish it wasn’t seen as a necessity though. Other than my family history of cancer there really aren’t any other risks in my life. I’m healthy, my boyfriend has been and is my only sexual partner and we use condoms as well as my birth control pill. I want to get a more long term birth control so I don’t feel pressured to get an exam every year for my pills, but I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and look at all of my options.

    And I am loving your blog. 🙂 Can’t believe I haven’t seen it until now.

  10. Elizabeth52 January 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    pmsrhino, those exams and the pap test are NOT clinically required for the Pill. It’s a try-on and if you challenge the Dr and you’re refused the Pill, I’d go over her head and lodge a formal complaint. The pap test can never be required for anything – it’s an optional cancer screening test that has risks (high numbers of false positives and harmful over-treatment) and benefits less than 1% of women. A blood pressure test and your medical history is all that’s clinically required for the safe use of the Pill.

    The routine pelvic exam is not recommended in symptom-free women in the UK or Australia – it’s of poor/low clinical value in the absence of symptoms and exposes you to risk – more procedures, testing and even surgery. I’ve never had one and I’m in my early 50’s…and would refuse it if any Dr ever suggested it.
    It would suggest to me that Dr was excessive/incompetent/out-of-date.
    Routine breast exams don’t help, but cause biopsies…they’re not recommended here either. Nor are routine visual inspections of the genitals, rectal exams, recto-vaginal and bimanual exams – all the things your doctors “say” are important to your health – nonsense.
    Re: routine breast exams, see: Hands off my chest Doctor and the Nordic Cochrane Institute have some research at their website.
    The coercive practice of “requiring” gyn exams and pap tests for the Pill is unethical and violates your rights and the Patient Bill of Rights. Google: “Women after birth control get unneeded pelvic exams” which appeared in one of your newspapers recently – you could take that along to your next appointment or even contact the authors for support and advice.
    You sound low risk to me and can I warn you that even high risk women should not have annual testing – it carries a very high risk of false positives and over-treatment for no additional benefit. If you want pap tests, think about the Finnish and Dutch program that provides some protection from the much higher risk of false positives – this cancer is rare and very rare before 30 – the Finns have the lowest rates of cc in the world and send the fewest women for colposcopy (and usually some sort of biopsy) – they offer 5 yearly pap tests from age 30. (5 to 7 tests in total) Even this program sends 35%-55% for colposcopy/biopsies at some stage, but that’s the best you’ll do with this unreliable test.
    Take a look at Dr Joel Sherman’s medical privacy site and under women’s privacy issues you’ll find the facts. I’d recommend Angela Raffle’s research “1000 women need regular smears for 35 years to save ONE woman from cervical cancer” British Medical Journal 2003 – commentary by Anna Saybourn at, “Why I’ll never have another smear test”.
    Using condoms is a great idea (especially in a partner of unknown STI status) – extra protection all round including fewer UTI’s, but a study showed women who ask their partners to use condoms reduce the risk of HPV infection by 70%, that’s a huge benefit when this cancer is a rare outcome of HPV infection. (HPV and something more – the rare cases need something else to push them to cancer – some think HPV AND smoking and/or an impaired immune system are factors, others think multiple high grade strains of HPV increase the risk – the jury is still out on that one.
    You shouldn’t be having annual testing, that risks your health for no benefit and if you’re under 30, do your reading. The guidelines were changed in the States last year anyway – moving away from annual testing to reduce the number of women being referred and treated unnecessarily, but it seems some doctors are carrying on with annual testing and risking their patient’s health for no additional benefit. These doctors need to be challenged…
    Cervical damage can lead to infertility, miscarriages, premature babies, cervical stenosis (that may require a procedure or surgery if the cervix scars shut and menstrual blood can’t escape, this can also lead to infections and endometriosis), cervical incompetence, (requiring cervical cerclage during pregnancy) infections, more c-sections and psych/psycho-sexual issues.
    I’d urge all women to head over to Dr Sherman’s site before agreeing to pap tests or the well-woman exam. (which should be called the sick woman exam because it is far more likely to harm you!)
    Also see the Violet to Blue site and Blogcritics and unnecessary pap smears.
    Good luck!

  11. Elizabeth52 February 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    American women – things are changing, more doctors are fighting for medical barriers to be broken down so women can get the Pill without being forced to have unnecessary exams or optional cancer screening.
    Dr Robert Hatcher from “Managing contraception” has some strong words for doctors who “hold” scripts.
    Also, see news feature, “Women who want birth control get unneeded pelvic exams”. (online) This is raising valuable awareness and empowers women to fight back.
    Daniel Grossman and others are pushing for OTC access to the Pill – that may happen for you within 5 years. The Pill has been proven safe over decades and should be freely available. Viagra is available everywhere…
    Controlling the Pill means controlling women – time to do away with that archaic thinking.
    Speed up change: Don’t let any doctor coerce you into unnecessary exams and optional cancer screening for the Pill or anything else. The only thing clinically required for the Pill is a blood pressure test and to provide your weight and medical history. Take the articles along to the consult, if need be or change doctors and let them know why you’re changing…
    Once doctors start losing patients (and income) they’ll change to evidence based medicine – they only got away with this for so long because doctors created a boycott and forced women to submit or go without reliable contraception – just shameful, the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy or abortion are severe.
    So pleased things are changing for you…it should have happened years ago.

  12. Elizabeth52 February 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    “Questioning the value of the routine pelvic exam” in the Wall Street Journal.
    Coming thick and fast now – I hope this will make more women realize they’ve been put through very invasive and distressing exams for no reason and far from being helpful, they were more likely to harm you.
    Doctors realize more women are working out these exams are not all they claim to be, now doctors are coming clean and trying another angle – you’re right, but come in every year for a chat!

  13. faeryme March 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    I’m so glad I found this post!! This happened to me.. I thought I has cancer! I’m in my mid 20s now, was 19 at the time, 19!! I had a colposcopy or biopsy, I don’t know the difference.. :/

    Just another chapter in the outrageous history of the medicalization of the female body..

  14. jilla May 4, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I question this spate of articles. I think they are Gardasil pharma planted to make women think they can just get vaccinated and everything’s looked after. You are exposing your body to far greater risk of harm with Gardasil et al than a Pap. Gardasil is far less effective and far more dangerous than pharma will say. What we’ve been given is marketing not science. And articles like these are part of the campaign. They are pharma written and sent out to media, who are paid for placing them with huge contracts in ad revenue from pharma, who make NO money on Pap, and have every reason to want to discourage it.

    • lishra May 4, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      As must as I distrust pharmaceutical companies, it really doesn’t seem like that’s what this is about. Gardasil and the like are rarely mentioned in these discussions (and, then, usually to relay bad experiences with it). Also, doctors are still adamant about how you *MUST!* keep getting pap tests even after you get the shots. I’ve never seen anything where “they” (doctors, etc) say otherwise. In the discussions that women are having on various websites, all of us have broader need to question any medical practices that are anti-woman (including using us as guinea pigs for the first “cancer vaccine”, breast cancer screening procedures, etc). Many of the articles also came out before mid-2006 when Gardasil was approved in the U.S. as well, though I just found a website that says they began their advertising campaign in 2005. Still, the impression I get is that the issue is just finally getting some minor attention as women are coming to realize how absurd these frequent, often useless pap tests are. (Finally, for what it’s worth, I’ve read a lot in the past about people’s awful experiences with Gardasil and articles that express concern about it’s safety. I doubt they’re simply working for the pro-pap lobby.)

      • jilla May 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

        No doubt we can do with fewer PAPs but until men use condoms regularly, and people stop pushing things into vaginas, including hands, which can carry HPV, there is reason to do them. Deaths from cervical cancer are around 300 a year in Canada, where Paps have been done since available, 1 to 3 years depending on the woman, but paid for, so almost no-one can say they can’t afford it. Cases of cervical cancer occur in women from areas which do not have access to regular Paps or other good health care. I think they are done too often (like colonoscopies). I would rather have a Pap any day. I would NEVER submit myself or any child to Gardasil.

        Their is a large lobby cautioning about Gardasil which is NOT Christian right. It’s a medical lobby, in fact. Check out this thread.

        And here:

    • lishra May 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      I just re-found this Washington Post article from a few years ago about how Merck (who makes Gardasil) was lobbying to get the shot series made mandatory for girls to attend school… http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/21/AR2007022100221.html

      I hate how the discourse on why the shot shouldn’t be mandatory is all about concerns that girls/young women all run out and start having PIV sex with all the dudes they can. The safety aspects and the whole “lesbians and asexual women exist” thing NEVER comes up.

      I also looked up something else I recalled reading about a while back: women immigrating to the U.S. have to get Gardasil because it’s on the CDC’s list of recommended vaccines… http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/09/18/immigrant-women-seeking-status-adjustment-face-forced-vaccination


      • jilla May 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

        Archived and comprehensive thread on Gardasil. Post, 79 comments. Many links.


  15. julia May 7, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Pap smears are forced on young girls, teenage girls, so are unnecesaary pelvic exams. They did it to me because I habd’t menstruated yet as of age 15. I was an athlete in highschool and I’ve recently read that it used to be common for girls to start bleeding later. What were they looking for?

    I knew at age four I did not want children. I kept trying to tell my mother this but nobody listens to girls. I am now 47 and I was right (of course – your Self never lies). They made me take a pill for ten days to see if I would bleed. So my first menses was NOT MINE.

    And it does not matter that I was raised in a famliy that encouraged my playig sports, petitioning the county so we could have girl’s soccer, weightlifting, etc. It’s just like Mary Daly wrote in Gyn/Ecology – the experiments they do on women in the name of ‘science’.

    I was furious when the Gardasil vaccine passed and was made mandatory in some states. First of all, vaccines are poison. Second, why not experiment on the boys instead and give them a vaccine and save the females, for once. And it assumes a million things – what kind of sex the girl will have, what her sexual orientation will be, etc.

    I’m glad to have found your blog!

    • lishra May 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experiences, Julia.

  16. Elizabeth (Aust) May 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I don’t believe I have the right to tell any woman how to live her life, but I will never accept that the government or medical profession have the right to make decisions for me and accept risk on my behalf. It extends to suppressing important risk information and using coercive and psychological tactics to achieve Govt-set targets INSTEAD
    of respecting our legal right to make informed decisions. The double standard is alive and well – men get risk information for prostate screening, while we get misinformation and skewed stats – informed consent is respected for men, not for women.
    I reject that system and thinking entirely…I find it disgraceful that our screening programs use words like “must” and “should” – cancer screening is always elective and we’re all entitled to the facts, the truth. My health is what matters, not population targets and public health goals – we’re not all the same – we all have different risk profiles and will feel differently about the amount and type of risk we accept in our lives. I’ve seen first hand the distress, pain and harm caused by the cervical screening program – my younger sister had a cone biopsy after a false positive. She did not give informed consent – the Dr did not even mention the high chance of getting a false positive and what might follow – many of these women are left with continuing issues – mental and physical – serious things like cervical stenosis, cervical incompetence (premature babies) and PTSD.
    Women are not actively participating in cancer screening, we’re unethically “recruited” into screening. Very few women are making informed decisions and some are not consenting at all – poor American women are forced to have testing to get the Pill, HRT and even migraine medications…these things are completely unrelated, it’s just another coercive tactic used to force women into screening. American doctors even tack on other unnecessary and potentially harmful exams like bimanual pelvic and breast exams. (not recommended at all by our doctors, I’d refuse them anyway)
    See: “Questioning the value of the routine pelvic exam” and comments by Dr Carolyn Westhoff. Also, “Hands off my chest Doctor” and research by the Nordic Cochrane Institute.
    Doctors deciding for women – and we often end up worse off. It should be OUR decision to screen or not…it is offensive to suggest that men are entitled to make their own decisions, but not women.
    Breast screening – more spin, puff and lies. Take a look at the 35 minute lecture given by Prof Michael Baum, UK breast cancer surgeon at UCL recently, “Breast cancer screening: the inconvenient truths”. It might save you from a lot of grief. Sadly we can’t trust our doctors or the govt with cancer screening – it is acceptable in our society to mislead and coerce women to their detriment…yet no one accepts responsibility for all of the bad outcomes.
    The lecture is at the Medphyzz site.

  17. julia May 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    And just to add a note to Elizabeth’s excellent comments, I once had a false positive. I think it was due to using a different kind of spermacide (back in the day when they said using spermacides w/ condoms lowers the risk of HIV). I went to a different gyn for a second smear and opnion and it acme out normal. But the days between that phone call and the next appointment and the results…..well, you can only imagine.

    I think the whole culture of gynecologists is dangerous to women. Look at how many false results come from mamograms, how many docotrs prescribe toxic medications for normal things like menopause, how many doctors ruin a woman’s childbirth experience. this last one I can not emphasize enough. The entire institution of trained at men’s univeristies male doctors, the malestreaming of ‘health’ taught to girls and women that coerces us or brainwashes us to be a part of the system, when WE were the original doctors! This was a big part of the Burning Times during the (Male) Rennisance.

    There are many ways to stay healthy without going to a doctor. And there are many ways to keep yourself from getting cancer.

  18. Elizabeth (Aust) May 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Also, remember there are lots of things that can cause an “abnormal” pap test and cancer is the least likely reason, by miles and miles….
    Infections (transient, harmless and taken care of by our immune systems), inflammation, (condoms, spermicide, tampons, some sex toys and even athletic sex) trauma, (childbirth) hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause)
    and perfectly NORMAL changes in the cervix that the pap often picks up as “abnormal” – the maturing cervix in women under 30 and menopausal women (include peri-menopause and post menopause)…so many things can lead to an “abnormal pap test”.
    The lifetime risk of cervical cancer is 0.65% and we know that fewer than 0.45% of women are helped by testing (if anyone) – but we refer 95% of American women, 77% of Aussie women and 65% of English women after “abnormal” pap tests.
    There is no doubt in my mind that this test would never have been approved today, it harms too many to “possibly” help very few – you can only get sufficient numbers of women buying into this lousy deal by misleading and coercing them – denying us our legal right to make an informed decision about testing.
    Rare cancer and unreliable test usually means the test is unsuitable and unethical for mass screening purposes.
    Sooo many women harmed and distressed for nothing…to possibly help fewer than half of 1%…fewer than 0.45%
    I say fewer because we know other factors are contributing to the fall in the death rate and also, there are no randomized controlled trials for pap tests, so no one can say “for sure” that testing helps anyone.
    So, 0.65% lifetime risk – one third to a half of women who get cervical cancer are false negative cases and may be disadvantaged by testing (delay seeing a Dr for symptoms after false reassurance from the “normal” result)…then take into account the other factors – more hysterectomies, fewer women smoking, less STD, better hygiene, better condoms etc…now consider ALL of the damage caused by this testing – the premature babies, cervical stenosis that can cause endometriosis, infections and may need surgery – miscarriages, infertility etc
    IMO, this is a lousy deal…a high risk woman has a remote chance of being helped, the rest of us just accept lots of risk.
    Find a doctor who’ll respect your right to choose…remind doctors this screening, all screening, is elective and involves risk to your healthy body. It is your decision, not the doctor’s or government’s decision.

    • Chazzy November 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

      I can’t tell you how much I agree, I sit here at 4.30am having just come across this site as I can’t understand why I’m still in pain a week after LLETZ treatment. I had an abnormal smear (Pap) test nearly 3 years ago, I was recalled for a 2nd test which I had a month later (Clear) and then fell into the system of a 3 monthly test (clear) a 2nd 3 month test and when this was clear moved to 6 monthly test which was clear and then a 2nd 6 monthly test which was clear so moved to an annual test. At the annual test I felt poorly afterwards and had difficulty standing on my own. This passed and I went home feeling mildly unwell. However the results were mild abnormalities so I was referred for a colposcopy which resulted in the above lletz treatment. I was called by my local hospital and given an appointment date (no explanation, no letter, no choice) I have a history of childhood abuse and recently a stalker (this was still ongoing when I had the first abnormal result) thus I had the aforethought to ask if the appointment was with a femalwe doctor. It wasn’t. I had to return to my doctor and ask for a female consultant, after some discussion (at which I felt I had to explain why) I was given a letter of referral to the main hospital in the area. I did attend the appointment some 3 weeks after the original appointment and spoke with the consultant there prior to the Colp exam. During the exam she did find some abnormal cells and decided that because of my history she would do the lletz treatment (so I would not have to have a biopsy and potentially return for treatment later) I agreed. and the treatment went ahead, unfortunately my body had a complete reaction and went into shock and shutdown. (Very much more than at my previous test) The result of this is that I spent 3 days in hospital, with no one knowing where I was, my notes went missing and no one knew why I was there. They provided me with food painkillers and drinks but failed to provide any other care but couldn’t locate my notes to allow me to go home. By the end of my 2nd day there my mental health was through the floor and I would happily have jumped out of the window had I been able to move. On the 3rd day a consultant came in with 3 nurses and started asking me questions. When I started to tell him what I’d been through,(ie the number of tests -7 in 2.5 years – and my background he calmly told me that “if they didn’t keep an eye on me I would be dead as I had high grade risk disease cells” and that he was going to refer me for some psycho sexual counselling as I would need to be tested more regularly now. (I have just had 18 months of counselling since the 4 years of stalking) Then he left with the 3 nursing staff. At that moment the consultant who did the treatment entered and I asked her what he had just said to me and she went to find my notes. She read from my notes that my last test results had read ‘some mild changes and that they couldn’t rule out high grade risk cells’ whilst she cannot be sure without the test results from the lab she believes that this is not the case. Meanwhile, after 6 years of hell at the hands of a stalker which I survived without any medical interference (save for counselling) I now find myself on Anti depressants, pain killers and more counselling, 3 weeks off work so far, without pay as I am self employed, continual moderate to bad pain and an inability stand for more than 5 mins without a dire need to pee. In the space of 2 hours I went from an active netball playing, horse riding non smoking/drinking healthy working woman to a blob in pyjamas. I’m a fairly intelligent woman but it never occurred to me that I had a choice, it was never given to me as a choice, I received a leaflet that said I would be able to go back to work 24 hours after any treatment and that post op I would have to have a colp exam annually for 10 years. And that if I didn’t attend I would be referred back to my GP. Well I still haven’t had the lab tests back from the hospital but I can tell you now, I will not go through this a second time and after reading up on the system since my treatment that I will be withdrawing from the UK screening system and will go ‘self refer’ at times which I will discuss with my doctor upon full examination of my complete medical history!

      • dlb2 November 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

        I’m so sorry, you’ve been through so much.
        Can I urge you to post over at Blogcritics and Unnecessary Pap tests? That site has about 8000 posts, many from women harmed by the screening industry. I’d copy and paste your post here….
        There are many informed women over there.

  19. jilla June 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Lishra I’m putting this in here as part of your “awfuls” collection. And because your blog is the sole one documenting male medical harms against women:

    This is from a registered nurse friend. Her mother was in her early 90s when this was going on:

    “(…) it took all my skills and effort, to stop the doctors and healthcare system from pumping her full of pills and giving her no end of diagnostic and screening tests, etc. In fact, this wore me out almost more than my own caregiving/oversight duties – and definitely added to them.

    For years, I could not get one paid hour of home support but once I finally got her in a day program (later dementia cottage and brief stint in long term care) the system was willing – nay adamant – about giving her all sorts of pills that made things worse even when she and I didn’t want them, all sorts of tests (pap smear, investigation for post-polio syndrome that has no treatments), routine chest X-rays, bone density, cholesterol you name it.

    The worst was the last few months when she was in long term care and suffering from arthritis pain (no effort to mobilize), all they did was keep pumping her full of psyche drugs. Getting pain meds – or getting them given – was a huge battle.

    And I can’t tell you how often I was cast as an irresponsible daughter for fighting all this stuff. In fact, I was once threatened with losing custody.”

    This was in Canada. RNs mother died about 10 year’s ago at age 94. All this was happening during her late 80s and early 90s.

  20. dlb2 June 28, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Just wanted to pick up on the comment made by Julia.
    I suspect Australia has been very slow to raise the starting age for pap tests because they want to assess the effectiveness of Gardasil on young women. (not screened in many countries for their own protection) Of course, no one asked young women whether they’re happy with the gamble or obtained their permission, when we know they produce the most false positives and there is no evidence they are helped by pap tests after decades of research and testing. The unethical conduct in our cancer screening is shocking.
    An article appeared in the Lancet recently that supports my concern – they’re cross-matching pap results in young women with Gardasil vaccination records.
    An article appeared years ago now calling for our program to be changed – we were testing too often and too early….”Time to change the Policy” by Dr James Dickinson…yet nothing changes.

    I’ve also been reading up on the HPV blood test and found an interesting admission by a senior Aussie gyn…take a look at “Cervical cancer screening” in “Australian Doctor” 2006 by Assoc Prof Margaret Davy and Dr Shorne. If a woman tests negative to high risk HPV, why do doctors keep pap testing her? I always wondered….does dormant HPV suddenly spring to life again years later?
    Of course not….
    Well, it’s mentioned in this article that women negative to HR HPV will still be tested in case their risk profile changes – in other words, if she takes a new lover or her partner is unfaithful….
    Of course, it would never occur to them that perhaps they should give this information to women and let her make her own decisions. Many of these women may not even be sexually active and risk their health having this invasive, unreliable test every 2 years.
    Doctors should not be making assumptions about us or our partners – it risks our health and is totally inappropriate.

    • lishra June 28, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. Indeed, doctors like to presume quite a lot. My doctor’s office (unbeknownst to my own doctor!) had a policy of requiring all women under 21 who believe they had a urinary tract infection to come in to be tested, even if you’ve had them before, know the symptoms, etc. It’s ridiculous. I asked the nurse-receptionist why and she said because young women (what with their assumed constant heterosexual sleeping around, I suppose!) might actually have an STI and are mistaking the symptoms.

      It’s just so insulting. It doesn’t help me trust my doctor if I’m not being trusted enough to not lie about my symptoms, sexual partners, etc.

  21. dlb2 June 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Here’s a link to the research that appeared in the Lancet.

  22. dlb2 June 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Exactly, and we don’t see that sort of attitude in male cancer screening – there IS a double standard in medicine. My husband was “offered” prostate screening when he turned 50 and I was astonished to see he was handed a long sheet listing the pros and cons of testing – his doctor stressed cancer screening is elective and entirely his decision.
    Women are treated SO differently – ordered, pressured, coerced or scared into screening with IMO, misleading and even incorrect information. Zero respect for informed consent and our doctors even get paid behind our backs for numbers screening…counted like sheep being run through dip!
    Yet prostate cancer is common, cervical cancer has always been rare and that’s the difference, you MUST screen very large numbers if the disease/cancer is rare and with an unreliable test that means a BIG and negative impact on healthy women – the more than 99% who’d never have an issue with this cancer.
    It means this program is only viable IF unethical measures are used and informed consent is ignored – IMO, that makes the program unethical and illegal…it violates our legal rights and ethical standards.
    I guess keeping women ignorant has protected the Govt and doctors from law suits from women harmed by over-treatment – most women walk away relieved they don’t have cancer or assume they were “treated” for cancer. When women don’t have basic information about this testing, it means legal action is unlikely as few women will put 2 and 2 together and realize they didn’t give informed consent in the first place: How many women even receive the pros and cons of testing from their doctor? Most women tell me they’re basically told by their doctor that all women MUST test, it’s part of being a woman…doctors have been getting away with this for decades.
    Time to challenge them…I’d urge every woman to speak up and stand firm when her rights are violated – ask doctors about false positive rates, the rareness of the cancer, the evidence that testing helps women under 30….when you have the correct answers, you’re better able to assess your doctor’s answers.

    My GP had never heard of ductal carcinoma in situ, so I was hardly going to take her advice on mammograms – over-diagnosis is one of the biggest problems in breast screening. It is unacceptable to hide these very real risks…or recommend something without going to the trouble of critically examining the downside. Some doctors will say, “it’s recommended, so the benefits must exceed the risks”…that is a cop-out, I expect a lot more from my health professional…how is that possible when Papscreen don’t mention false positives in their brochures, yet 77% of women will be referred at some stage….but they mention false negatives, which are uncommon – they mention the latter because it serves to scare women into regular testing. Breast screening – the brochures don’t mention over-diagnosis and gloss over false positives…yet we know the situation is so serious that many senior doctors in the UK are calling for the program to be halted for re-assessment – too many women are being harmed…once again, I cannot urge women enough to listen to Prof Baum’s recent lecture at UCL – on the Medphyzz site, “Breast cancer screening: the inconvenient truths” – refer it to any woman you know who might be considering breast screening or is currently part of the program. I would also like to see every woman provided with a copy of the, “Risks and benefits of mammograms” produced by the Nordic Cochrane Institute due to concerns about the misleading and incomplete information being given to women. Sadly, few women will see that paper…it threatens the program and target, so it will never be officially released to women.

    I’ve just read, “Over-diagnosed” by Dr Gilbert Welch – excellent book which covers breast and prostate screening in some detail…I thought one sentence summed up our “healthcare”…a female doctor told Dr Welch that she felt uncomfortable about declining breast screening on the basis of information that is not released to women.
    So, an exclusive club exists – women outside the medical circle are used to achieve govt-set targets while those who have the actual facts, make an informed decision to walk away….
    Informed consent respected for a privileged few women.
    NOT good enough by miles….
    How is that fair or proper?

  23. margaret January 20, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    As a 41 year old woman who has had one smear throughout her life I felt pressured by media/doctors to have a smear test-booked one for next week! How thankful I am to find your webpage-I feel if I I dont have a smear and get cervical cancer then I have only myself to blame, why because the media and the bodies associated with cervical screeening all but shout this at you!! I have no wish to have 6 weeks of worry, then possibly an “abnormal” result & my body chopped, prodded & poked for a chance of cancer- thank you for being so brave to say what so many want to say………

    • doublevez January 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      The scrapings leave your cervix vulnerable to infection too. They won’t admit that, or will downplay it, but I think it could cause problems in the future. They cause this injury, which becomes something more, and then they advise you to have a hysterectomy. Invariably. But if you think you must go, now, have some fun while there. Ask the doctor how HPV and other STDs get on your cervix? Ask if women who don’t have PIV still have to get SCRAPINGS (might as well call it what it is). Nuns. How high is the rate of STDs and HPV in nuns? Ask them if you can avoid hysterectomy (should that arise) if you stop having PIV?

      • Eliz52 February 10, 2012 at 4:18 am #

        For those women concerned about this rare cancer, forget mass pap testing, take a look at the Dutch program – they are about to move from their 7 pap test program, 5 yearly from age 30 to 60 to 5 hrHPV primary triage tests offered at ages 30, 35, 40, 50 and 60 and ONLY those positive will be offered a 5 yearly pap test. (until they clear the virus) By age 40 only 5% of women are HPV positive and at risk from this rare cancer. Those negative can follow the HPV program or if monogamous or no longer sexually active can forget all testing and revisit the subject if their risk profile changes.

        The Dutch are also testing themselves for HPV using the Delphi Screener. Most women having pap tests, biopsies and potentially damaging over-treatment are not even at risk of cervical cancer – women should be tested for HPV before anything else happens. HPV negative women don’t need pap tests, biopsies or treatments. Mass pap testing harms vast numbers of women and misses too many of these cancers – HPV testing is more likely to prevent the 50% of adenocarcinoma and 25% of squamous cell carcinoma missed by pap testing. Mass pap testing and over-screening/over-treatment is highly lucrative – women will have to demand something better and refuse to participate in these harmful and outdated pap testing programs.

        There are numerous articles on the Delphi Screener – the Delphi Bioscience site contains information on the device – several countries are looking at this self-sampler, but I doubt American or Australian women will see it anytime soon. Both countries have
        serious over-screening pap test programs that generate an absolute fortune for the medical profession. There is also little critical discussion of these programs and most women are unaware of the risks and very limited benefits…women will have to DEMAND a program that will better protect the more than 99% of women who can never benefit and one that is more likely to prevent the 9 cases that occur in every 100,000 women.
        Women should also demand access to the self-sample option – many women who wish to test would welcome a non-invasive and reliable test.

  24. dlb2 March 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    This is an interesting article…a doctor who chooses not to have pap tests.
    “why I’m saying no to a smear” by Dr Margaret McCartney in the Independent (UK)


    Great that more women are prepared to question the value of this testing and see it as a choice and not a duty or responsibility…all cancer screening is elective.

  25. lin April 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    This is very eye-opening. I had a pap two weeks ago. It came back abnormal and I tested positive for high-risk HPV. I am scheduled for a colposcopy that I am now reconsidering!! Could anyone offer me any feedback on what I should do at this point? I am wondering if it’s necessary….

    • dlb2 April 28, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      The new program recommended by the Dutch Heath Council (the Dutch and Finns are the ones to watch here) will offer all women a HPV primary triage test at age 30 or you can test yourself using the Delphi Screener and only those positive will be offered a 5 yearly pap test. I presume you would only be referred for a colposcopy if you were HPV positive and then produced an abnormal pap test, CIN 2 or 3. If you’re under 30 you wouldn’t be tested at all, pap test or HPV…testing does not change the incidence or death rate in those under 30, but causes harm through very high over-detection. (false positives)

      • butterfly December 4, 2012 at 3:30 am #

        Thank god for this page. I am really against the doctor violating me with a speculum and putting my feet up in stirrups to further make me vulnerable. I refuse to expose such a personal delicate part of me at a doctors visit. I think women need to band together more, campaign, force the public to see these issues, get in newspapers, on tv, If they can force us into tests we can force them to hear us. I never considered myself a feminist. I laughed at those women, until my own rights were challenged and manipulated. These tests aren’t right and as a 26 year old abuse survivor I can honestly say, I’d rather die of cancer. I hope more women open their eyes to the truth and stop these pervasive exams. More women need to educate rather than just accept the doctor being right and realize when they are being manipulated. If you say no and a doctor insists it is harassment. Never be afraid to raise your voice and yell the words ‘I said no!’ I’ve read horror stories along with ones about how normal they think it is to treat us.








        If we stick together, fight, get organized, unified and continue educating one another, we can make a real difference in the medical system. There are thousands of people both in and out out of the medical field that want to defend medical woman’s rights. It’s all about organization and unity. Good luck to all you brave smart women out there. Never stop defending your rights! You can always say no!

      • dlb2 December 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

        Don’t hold your breath waiting for self-testing, only a few countries offer self-testing to women, most prefer to provide women with orders, not options. I also doubt we’ll ever hear the truth about hrHPV primary triage testing. The official Govt statement in Australia manages to avoid alerting women to the fact that 95% of women aged 30 to 60 are HPV negative, not currently at risk from cc and can’t benefit from pap testing, excess biopsies or over-treatment. The profession would rather test and “treat” huge numbers unnecessarily. The new Dutch program is an example of evidence based testing that puts women first, this program IMO, is more likely to save lives by identifying the small number who might benefit from a pap test BUT just as importantly spares most women the unpleasant ordeal of a lifetime of unnecessary pap testing and the high risk of excess biopsies and over-treatment. (and finally the option of self-testing)
        IMO, countries that promote excess and order women about, use coercion and provide incomplete and misleading information don’t care about women’s healthcare, it’s all about control and making huge profits…keeping day procedure busy. It should be a scandal, but the medical profession has always had two standards in this country, one for men and another for women. They have no trouble respecting informed consent for men and PSA testing/rectal exams but refuse to respect our legal rights, bodily privacy and health. Why would any HPV negative woman wish to spend her entire life having unnecessary pap tests? That’s MOST women…
        Head over to Blogcritics and Pap smears…some great posts over there from informed women. More women are waking up…

    • Sarah December 25, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

      Hi Lin This is exactly the same situation I am in currently…Did you go,, and did you find out any more information? Thanks Sarah NZ

  26. butterfly December 12, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    I just want to thank the author and the other people who responded to this blog because it really helped me stand up to my doctor when she tried the who ‘you need an exam’ technique. It was just as you all described. The scaring me with cancer, but I gave her such a look that she ended it with a ‘I hope you’ll think about it’. Oh I am. I don’t smoke, I rarely have sex or drink and the sex I do have is always protected. I would get the test if I thought it absolutely necessary, but I don’t. I’m not high risk for it and my doctor knew that. She also tried to Gardasil me, just calling it a vaccine and I said no once she told the actual name for it. She asked why and I told her that I read up on the side effects and I’m not interested. She had nothing to say. 🙂 I honestly never felt more empowered and the more I read, the more I see, that I really don’t need it. Until the U.S cleans up it’s act and offers better, less invasive exams or screenings, I refuse to take part it this. I refuse to let swabs or spatulas touch my cervix. It’s just too damaging and personal. I will take my very low chances thank you.

    • Elizabeth (Aust) December 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      I think women have received few (if any) options over the decades and smarter testing (hrHPV primary testing and self-testing) has not been made available because the profession felt they could coerce, pressure, scare and mislead most women into frequent pap testing – they’d link it to birth control, pre-natal care, they’d test opportunistically…this is not ethical cancer screening.

      When women become informed and start to say “No”, that’s when we may see some changes being made…I was surprised to hear ACOG now believe the Pill should be made available over the counter. Now for decades they’ve used the Pill to force women into unnecessary and potentially harmful exams and tests. Women who refused were left with no birth control pills. Scripts were held until women agreed to an exam…this is medical coercion. IMO, ACOG’s treatment of women has been appalling. The health and well-being of women has never been their concern. These barriers forced many women into screening and over-screening and many ended up being referred for further tests and “treatments” after false positive exams and tests and lots were left worse off.

      Now they admit that half of all pregnancies are unplanned – IMO, this must also mean more abortions, ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.
      The barriers they created around the Pill for their financial benefit have contributed to the number of unplanned pregnancies etc
      Can you imagine a man being told he must have an unnecessary prostate exam before he can have Viagra? I know many women who believe doctors have taken advantage of them and misused their prescriptive powers.

  27. rainmeadows January 30, 2016 at 7:19 pm #

    I am 35 years old and I am a virgin. The military forces pap smears on females. I had my first pap smear at 21 years of age in boot camp. Females were “put on the spot”. I probably would have never joined the military had I known I would be receiving pap smears. One doctor told me to wait until marriage.

    I wish I had never joined. In 2005 I received another pap smear, and the enlisted hospital corpsman “intentionally tore my hymen”. He states so I do not feel pain during sexual intercourse. Who is he to “dictate” or make that decision? Who do people think they are? I believe his decision to do such a horrific things was stereotype or discriminating in nature.

    A woman’s hymen is supposed to be torn on her wedding night. NOT by the hands of a medical person. My life is ruined now because of pap smears. I will struggle for the rest of my life now. No one can fix it, I will not play cover-up, no on did me “any favors”, and it will never be okay what he did. Thanks for nothing….

    Psalm 23


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