Saying “No” to a Pap Test

Every time I go to a walk in clinic the doctor asks me “When was your last pap test?” Even though my reasons for visiting have nothing to do with my reproductive organs — once I went because of a sprained ankle, another time because of a flu — it doesn’t seem to matter to the doctors. They are always more interested in finding out the date of my last pap test than in finding out about my actual problem.

And because I’ve never once had a doctor explain anything about pap tests to me, I never even knew what they were for until one day I did my own research, and only then did I learn they were used to screen for cervical cancer. I was shocked when I also learned that cervical cancer is RARE, that pap tests are rampantly inaccurate, and that doctors are supposed to be offering us a choice about whether or not to screen.

So, the last time I needed to see a doctor, I decided to turn down the inevitable offer of a pap test.  This post is for all you women who need to see a doctor but who, like me, have decided not to have a pap test or pelvic exam.

After years of compliance, this is how the experience of saying “no” played out:

I’m up for this and I arrive feeling in control – I can do this no problem . .

Trying to stay limber in the waiting room

And trying not to think about some doctor’s attitudes

Finally shown into the exam room and soon after the doctor walks in

Here’s hoping the doctor will focus on the reason for my visit, but one of the first questions the doctor asks is “when was your last pap test?”

And I’m like

But then I gather courage, and explain that I’m not there for a pap test because I’ve chosen to not participate in cervical cancer screening

And the doctor’s like

The doctor says things like “but it’s for your own good, pap tests save lives, it only takes a minute and since you’re here anyway . . .”. I’m tempted to give in

But no, I actually feel like doing this

And this

But I take the high road and instead do something like this

Explaining the reasons why I have decided to opt out of cervical cancer screening (for example, because cervical cancer is rare and pap tests are rampantly inaccurate, etc.) did not go over too well with the doctor. Doctors make extra money from pap tests, and some doctors also don’t like to have their opinions questioned. Bringing up the reasons why I’m opting out of screening (no matter how valid and well researched those reasons are) led to a long argument, and I end up in this type of situation:

After much verbal sparring, I end up getting my way. But another idea occurs to me in the process: in the future if I don’t want to go through a lot of arguing, I could always say I’m currently having a heavy period. Or, if I don’t want to lie, I could schedule my appointment for that time of the month.

Or, if the doctor’s a male, I could act surprised and then say I only allow women to perform pap tests, never men

Or, I can bring a really big guy with me into the exam room

But, how ever you decide to approach it, if you manage to get what you need without being coerced into an unwanted exam, then congratulations  – well done!

More on this topic:
Other ways to combat pap test coercion:
Female doctor who does not have pap tests:
Informed consent missing:
What some male doctors do when women say “no”:

About forwomenseyesonly

Hi. My name is Sue and I am interested in promoting holistic and respectful health care.
Gallery | This entry was posted in comedy, health, humor, humour, informed consent, pap test, unnecessary pap test and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

238 Responses to Saying “No” to a Pap Test

  1. Elizabeth Hempel says:

    I’m done with general GP’s.

    I know they mean well, but I don’t want doctors prodding around up inside my vagina with cold hard metal instruments.
    I was taken advantage of by a male doctor this way at 18 or 19 years of age, as well as given a breast exam that I did not need nor consent to.

    The risk of cervical cancer is quite small, and in my opinion doesn’t warrant the constant badgering women receive to undertake regular screenings when many of us simply don’t want them. I do not owe anyone any explanation as to why we wish to decline this particular medical procedure.

    I don’t care if its a woman doctor, a male doctor, or anyone. My body is my own. If that cannot be respected then I’ll take my business elsewhere.

    • Rose says:

      I agree, I went in with my husband for a simple check up and we were separated so I had my 14 month old daughter with me. The nurse walked in, checked my weight, then asked me if I wanted to undress to prep for a pap smear. I just stared at her like, are you serious? I asked her, ” am I to hold my child as you fiddle around down there?” She laughed nervously and told me to reschedule. I have not.

  2. Elizabeth (Aust) says:

    Well said, Elizabeth…and welcome to the forum

  3. Sarah says:

    Reading this four years after you wrote it and so glad you did! I went for a simple skin check today and was asked by two different staff about pap smears. I feel so violated just being asked, and have been upset ever since. At best, it’s psychologically damaging and ineffective as a screening test, and at worst, the unnecessary biopsies afterwards can damage the cervix and cause problems in pregnancy. I feel so angry and lose faith in the doctors who recommend it. When will they get rid of this appalling practice, and stop trying to coerce every female who walks in the door? I don’t think I will ever find, “Hi, what’s your name? When was your last pap smear?” an appropriate conversation, and especially not with multiple strangers every time I walk into a medical centre.

    • Monica Mason says:

      Tell them office time is too short to discuss other health care issue than what you scheduled the appoint for and refuse to answer the question. Tell them to place on your chart that you want this issue permanently resolved and they are to never bring the subject again. Patients have the right to refuse any pill, treatment, exam, without receiving harassment or coercion and you do not need to provide them with a reason. Tell them your choice is no and the issue is closed and to get back to the reason you came to the doctors.

  4. Priya Bansal says:

    About a year ago, when I was 22, I went into my first appointment with an adult doctor. It was so stupid since I was about to graduate college and move out of the state in a year and could have just held out with my pediatrician until then, since I would have to get a new doctor once I left anyway. My dad kept badgering me to go to an adult doctor and would get mad about my lack of trust for doctors, so he picked one out for me, and I decided to go. I’m not typically super trustworthy of doctors, but I decided this time I would try this trusting thing. The doctor asked me if I was a virgin and we talked a bit about it, and then she said that women over 21 are recommended to get pap smears, even if they’re virgins, but as a virgin I didn’t necessarily need one. I had only heard about pap smears and I guess I was stupid enough to assume they were external exams, which I was fine with, so I said if they were recommended I’d do it. Doc starts getting really weird, goes out, brings some nurse in or something. I kept thinking “maybe she’s going to go inside me but she wouldn’t do that without telling me, knowing that I’m a virgin, right?” I decide to ask her to tell me exactly what she’s going to do and she’s like “I’m just going to check down there and take a swab.” Stupid trusting thing. The speculum she used what like 4 inches wide (probably less than that, but it looked huge and definitely wasn’t the tampon-sized ones that are typically used for virgins) and the pain was excruciating. Every time I told the doctor I was in pain she was just like “it shouldn’t hurt,” like that meant anything. Ended up getting super traumatized, dropped out of college, felt like my body had changed (had these weird cramps that just went away a few months ago after going to an actual gynecologist and having a much better experience, so I think the cramps were psychosomatic), and I’m still dealing with it a year later. Felt like rape, but everyone keeps telling me that it wasn’t and I should just “get over it” so I’m super confused. Been warned about rape since I was 11 (told that’s why I couldn’t do all the things my brother could) so now that I’ve had this incredibly painful experience with some unwelcome thing going inside my vagina and it’s not rape… I just don’t get it.

    • linda says:

      Hi. This stupid doctor took unfair advantage of you. You went to her in all innocence not knowing what she had planned for you.

      You are a virgin and she had no right to do that to you. She knows you dont do this to virgins. Complain to the medical authorities.

      Now you need to move on with your life. Read the comments and articles on this site and get strong. Learn from other women. Smears are not necessary or mandatory. Learn to stand up to doctors. Dont be afraid to be ‘very’ firm with them.


      • Priya Bansal says:

        I did complain to the medical authorities. Nothing’s happening. So I’m taking matters into my own hands. In my mind, if she doesn’t accept responsibility for what happened, it’s my responsibility, which means it’s my responsibility to make sure this never happens again. I take my responsibilities very seriously.

  5. Monica Mason says:

    I made my doctor permately resolve the issue and I am never to be asked about them again. I once had an asshole male Dr when I refused a pap asked what my husband would want me to do. I went bat shit crazy on him.

    • ChasUK says:

      Oh my Monica – you made me laugh so loud in the office everyone wanted to know why – Thank you for making my day with your comment “I went bat shit crazy on him”. I seriously am PMSL at the moment! Brilliant!
      Just goes to show how paternalistic they all are….like a husband has any right to that decision about ones body…..I dam well think not!

    • Apocalyptic queen (UK) says:

      A male using another male to enforce his own “authority” and to get his own way. Says a lot!

  6. hloffers says:

    I haven’t posted here in like 4 years. So I’ve been seeing a nurse practitioner since my old doctor didn’t work out. She was obsessed with pap smears. Granted, she mostly left me alone because I’m a very good liar and would reassure her that my midwife was doing them (not) and flat out told her, “You really don’t need to bother yourself with my girly stuff. Ever. If I have an issue I’ll let you know.” However, she always had the stuff set up in every exam room and it was really weird. CREEPY. I left her because she literally blamed every health problem I had on my weight. Ear infection? It’s because you’re fat. Sprained ankle? Fat. Inherited thyroid problems? Fat. I lost it after the sprained ankle (slipped on the stairs and rolled it) and fired her.

    I’ve been with this NP for a year and she’s really great. She’s very sweet I have a good rapport with her and instead of blaming everything on my weight, she is trying to help me understand the underlying causes of why I struggle to lose weight and celebrates when I’ve lost even a little amount instead of telling me it’s not good enough. Paps have never come up because she never asked, but she did this past week when she suggested a physical later this year with all the bells and whistles. I took a deep breath and looked her right in the eyes and said, “I understand I am overdue for a physical and I do need to keep an eye on some things, but know that I will not consent to any GYN exams or pap smears or breast exams. I never will. They are invasive and I cannot abide them without panic attacks for months afterwards. I understand the risks. I am low risk for HPV and breast cancer, anyway, and I choose not to be screened.”

    She shrugged and said, “That’s fine. When you book your appointment online, just write in the notes section that you don’t want any GYN or breast stuff and we won’t worry about it.” She then grinned and said, “Makes the appointment shorter anyway.”

    I was floored. Never have I met a practitioner who was so accepting of my choices and didn’t argue with me. Maybe it’s because I’m over 40 or maybe because I was proactive. I almost hugged her, I was so happy. She’s definitely got me as a lifelong patient now!

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