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
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!
Other ways to combat pap test coercion: https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2012/12/06/three-ways-to-combat-doctors-bullying-you-into-unwanted-pap-tests-and-pelvic-exams/
Female doctor who does not have pap tests: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/2234123-why-i-don-t-have-smears
Informed consent missing: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2009/11/informed-consent-missing-pap-smears-cervical-cancer-screening.html
What some male doctors do when women say “no”: https://forwomenseyesonly.com/2012/10/17/what-some-male-doctors-do-when-women-say-no/