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.

229 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.

  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.

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