As a woman approaching her 25th birthday (the quarter century is approaching rather quicker than I’d like) I was recently invited to and underwent my first cervical screening (or ‘smear test’). I thought I’d let you in on how the process went for me as a wheelchair user in case anyone else is in the same situation and would like some insight.
Receiving the Invitation
Since I am almost 25, I received a letter in the post inviting me to book my cervical screening via my GP. I instantly began what the process was and what pitfalls I may encounter or additional access needs I would have as a wheelchair user with Cerebral Palsy.
Booking the Appointment
When it came to booking the appointment, I’m registered with an online/digital GP service who also have physical locations. This meant I had to book the screening appointment over the phone in order to get an appointment at the actual GP surgery. I tried that for a few days but wasn’t able to get an answer or book an appointment. So, as I often do, I took to Twitter. This eventually lead to me getting a call back from the doctors and I was able to arrange the appointment. Throughout the appointment booking process, I didn’t mention my Cerebral Palsy. This is because I knew the doctors surgery was accessible since I’d been before. Plus I believe my Cerebral Palsy isn’t relevant to a situation until it is relevant, so it’s a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” kind of situation. Also, given that this is my doctors we are talking about, I figured my lifelong medical condition would be on record already anyway.
The Actual Appointment
On the day of the appointment, I just walked to the surgery, entered, and waited to be called in for my appointment. Once I was called into the appointment, the nurse explained what would be happening and asked some basic questions. I found the tone of the explanation kind of patronising, but I did wonder whether it was just explained in that time because it was my first time having the screening? When it came time to start the screening I just parked my wheelchair beside the bed and transferred over. The nurse then asked me to remove my underwear, shoes, and socks. I was somewhat annoyed at the need to take off my shoes. I’d specifically worn a skirt to the appointment, since I know putting on shoes is difficult for me and I hate struggling with tasks in front of people. I was then asked to widen my hips and flop my legs out to the side. This kind of request is something I’m used to from medical professionals since I’ve spent a lot of my life having doctors testing my hip flexion which is somewhat a similar position. I was, however, aware that my legs weren’t evenly flat (due to muscle tightness from my Cerebral Palsy) and wondered whether that would affect how easy the screening would be. In order to obtain a sample, the nurse inserted a speculum. It was somewhat uncomfortable and took 3 attempts to get a decent sample. I think that was probably somewhat because of the muscle tightness from my Cerebral Palsy as well. Once a decent sample was obtained and the screening was over, I simply cleaned myself up, redressed (leaving my shoes off until I got out of the room so I could struggle in peace) and transferred back into my wheelchair and the appointment was done. I didn’t have any pains afterwards that I was aware of. Also, for those who are bothered, my screening came back clear so I don’t need to undergo any further testing or intervention until 2024.
I hope this provides some insight for other wheelchair users (or those with other disabilities and access needs) who want or need more information on the process of undergoing a cervical screening.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)