All cancer screening is optional, including pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. Unfortunately, some women mistakenly believe pap tests are mandatory.
The mistaken belief that pap tests are mandatory is mainly due to the fact some doctors fail to inform women that they have the right to refuse pap tests, pelvic exams, and any or all screening tests and examinations. Some doctors may even withhold health care and medications unless women agree to screening.
Media also plays a role in promoting the illusion that pap tests are mandatory.
- Emphasizing or exaggerating potential benefits while minimizing or ignoring potential harms
- Framing screening as if it were a mandate, not a choice
- Emphasizing patient anecdotes of people who claim their life was saved by screening – something that can’t be proven
- Missing the stories of people who make rational decisions not to be screened, or the stories of people who regret making ill-informed screening decisions
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The tendency of media to frame screening as if it were mandatory together with some doctors’ failure to disclose the fact that all screening is optional helps to explain why some women remain unaware of their right to refuse pap tests and other screening.