#EndSmearFear is aiming to save lives

Smear tests, commonly known as Pap smears in the U.S., are essential for the detection and prevention of cervical cancer. Unfortunately, due to a combination of embarrassment, stigma and, for some people assigned female at birth (AFAB), trauma and/or medical conditions that make the process painful, between one-third to half of all eligible people either put off or avoid getting their test done entirely. Charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust started the hashtag #EndSmearFear in partnership with Twitter in order to try and address the issues keeping people from seeking this life-saving diagnostic care.

https://twitter.com/JoTrust/status/1173494160940290048

The hashtag quickly went viral, with everyone from gynecologists to ordinary tweeters posting messages of support, sharing their own smear test stories, and encouraging people to go in and get that test they’ve been putting off.

Writer and sex educator Alix Fox shared a number of tips to help make getting a smear test easier, including asking for a smaller speculum.

Alix also suggested the My Body Back Project in London “for women & trans men who have experienced sexual violence where you can get a smear with teams who’ll be especially aware of your needs.”

Some users shared their stories of positive test results and what happened next to demystify the process and remind everyone what the stakes are.

Others took the opportunity to call for more research to improve diagnostic and treatment measures, and to raise awareness of the fact that smears are painful for some people and the rhetoric about painlessness is likely to drive them away.

There were also a number of queer and trans twitter users, as well as trans-affirming professionals, reminding people that it’s not only cis women who have cervixes and need to get smears done, as well offering advice on how to access that care as painlessly as possible.

https://twitter.com/CorryShawComedy/status/1173554704225308677

Which Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust was quick to sign off on.

Smear tests are free for people 25 years and older in the U.K., so if you haven’t had yours, make an appointment now. It could save your life.

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Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org