Cervical Screening

Sources of support

Support from family, friends and health professionals can be crucial in enabling people to manage and cope with their feelings when diagnosed with an illness or health related problem.

Friends and family
Many women we interviewed said the support they had received from their family and friends had enabled them to cope better with their fears. Some didn't tell some family members or friends until just before, or after, they had further tests or treatment, because they did not want to burden them with their concerns or cause them worry. Others didn't talk about their experience until several years later, when a friend was also diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells.

Some mentioned that the support of other relatives or friends who had experience of abnormal test results, tests or treatments was vital to how they coped with their feelings.

One woman said that her friends found it hard to understand why, after treatment, she still felt anxious about having had abnormal cells. A few, who had a history of abnormal results and treatments, found they were supporting their partners or other family members who were more anxious about their abnormal result than they were.

GPs, hospital doctors and nurses
Doctors and nurses, while primarily caring for the medical needs of their patients, can also have a fundamental effect on how people cope with their illness. Support from their GPs when women received an abnormal test result made a difference to how some women we talked to managed their anxiety. A few lost confidence in, or felt let down by, their GP because they didn't receive adequate information or explanations about their abnormal result, tests or treatments, which caused them unnecessary anxiety.

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One woman was impressed by the kindness shown by one nurse who spent an hour speaking with her on the telephone about her concerns following her abnormal result and referral for a colposcopy examination.

Others who had good support from their GP stressed this helped them to cope better before their tests and in reducing their fears afterwards.

Many women we interviewed found the treatments and investigations for abnormal cervical cells embarrassing and intrusive. Several mentioned that the support of nurses during these tests and treatments helped them to feel less embarrassed and more at ease. Simple acts like holding their hands and talking to them during examinations made an enormous difference to how many women felt.

Many recalled that when hospital doctors and nurses had acted in a courteous considerate way this had made a great difference to their experience of the investigation and treatment of their abnormal cervical cells.

Online support
One of the most supportive online resources for many women was the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website. They had found it very helpful to chat on the forum to other women going through similar experiences, or to read how others were coping.

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Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2015.


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