Healthcare workers may need to be more sensitive when administering smear tests to encourage women who were sexually abused during childhood to attend cervical cancer screenings, research suggests.
According to the National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme 78.6% of eligible women have had at least one smear test in the last five years. But researchers found only 77.5% of abused women had ever had one with less than half (48.5%) of them having been screened during the last five years.
Fear and anxiety as well as a lack of sensitivity by the healthcare worker administering the smear test were identified in the research - published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care - as factors contributing to women avoiding them.
The researchers looked at 135 women who’d used the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) website.
NAPAC’s training and development manager Sarah Kelly wrote: “Common feelings among survivors of sexual abuse include shame, guilt, self-blame and feeling unclean, contaminated or dirty. These feelings can be compounded during the experience of a smear test.”