- Get booked in: if you’re registered as male or non-binary at your GP surgery, you may not receive an invitation letter to go for your cervical screening. If you are 25 or over and have a cervix do call your GP and find out if you are due and get an appointment booked.
- Expectations: There is no pressure to actually have your screening test done in your first appointment. Sometimes multiple appointments are needed so that trust is built up between you and your nurse or doctor. If you are finding your screening difficult for whatever reason, it’s absolutely fine to need extra time in order to feel ready and prepared.
- Ask questions: Try not to be afraid to ask questions, or talk through any concerns you may have. Knowing what to expect can help make things seem less scary. It can be useful to see the equipment first and talk through the procedure step by step. If your nurse or doctor doesn’t ask for your preferred pronouns, if you have had any genital gender transition surgeries or if you have a preferred term for your body parts, then try and tell them as early on in the appointment as possible, to avoid any communication that makes you feel triggered or uneasy.
- Start small: A speculum is the plastic instrument inserted in order to give the nurse or doctor a good view of the cervix. Speculums come in different sizes, so if you think you might find the screening test painful, ask for the smallest speculum and for it to be well lubricated.
- Ask Eve: Our nurse led information service, Ask Eve, is also here to help you. You can contact Ask Eve with any of your questions around gynae health and screening. You can email them on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0808 802 0019. The service is completely free and confidential, so please do get in touch if you want to talk to someone before (or after) your appointment.
- Relaxation is key: As humans, when we hear the words ‘just relax’, we often do the exact opposite! But try to relax in whatever way you can. What normally relaxes you? Whether it’s playing your favourite music or having a friend or partner with you for support, then use these tools to help you during your screening. Whatever you can do to try and feel as calm as possible.
- Control: Remember, you are in control of this situation! You can tell your nurse or doctor to stop and change your mind at any time for any reason.
- Lubricate: If you are post-menopausal or taking testosterone, you will have less natural lubrication, which can make a cervical screening test more uncomfortable. Try using a natural internal moisturiser before the appointment to make using a speculum easier and more comfortable. An oestrogen cream is also something that is helpful in this situation, but understandably using an oestrogen-based product can be off-putting, even if it is a localised product, i.e. won’t do anything to the body other than create more natural lubrication.
- You first: If you are finding the appointment really difficult, or taking the sample is causing a lot of discomfort or pain, it may be better for you to not go through with the screening test at this point in time. There might be a time in the future where it might be better for you. Sometimes, after thinking about your risk of having HPV, i.e. your sexual activity/history, you may decide against screening. Your overall wellbeing is a priority, particularly if the risk of cervical cancer is low. Your doctor or nurse will be able to discuss your risk with you and help you make the decision which is best for you and your overall health. You can also speak to Ask Eve.
- Plan B: If your GP/practice nurse finds it difficult to take your screening test, you can ask to be referred to your local colposcopy clinic where there is often a wider variety of equipment to make the process as comfortable as possible. There are some specialist LGBTQ+ clinics across the country too, which if possible, you can book into for your screening.
- Plan C: Sometimes it just isn’t possible to finish the test or you would prefer not to go ahead with the appointment. If you think it is a better option for you, you might want to consider a self-testing kit that can be done at home. It will come at a financial cost, and the chances of a poor sample or inaccurate result are higher, but it may be a better option if you would really like to be screened but are finding it too difficult.
If you still have any worries or concerns ahead of your appointment, you can contact our nurse-led information service, Ask Eve, by emailing email@example.com, or calling the freephone number 0808 802 0019.
Michelle O’Hara, who runs a trans specialist cervical screening clinic, 56 Dean Street, says: “Encouraging trans men, non-binary and intersex people with a cervix to have a smear is essential. We offer a service that is accessible, effective, friendly and unbiased. We understand that for some, this can be an emotional experience, and it is perfectly normal to feel anxious. It is important that patients know that they have complete control of their body, feel reassured and have the right say ‘stop’ at any time.”
Adeola Olaitan, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist, University College London Hospital, says: “Trans men and non-binary people with gynaecological organs remain at risk of gynae cancers. They may not be aware of their risk, and may not be invited to go for a cervical screening. It is so important that everyone is aware of their risk and the need to attend screening as cervical cancer is almost wholly preventable with the vaccination and the screening programme. The information created by The Eve Appeal will help this community be aware of their risks and feel more comfortable and confident going for cervical screening as well as talking about any worrying symptoms they might be having.”