Feeling violated

Two weeks ago I went for a smear test. Unfortunately it was a very poor experience for many reasons and I have submitted a complaint to my GP Practice Manager.
There were 4 attempts and by the end I was shaking and crying with the pain - I took about a week to heal physically but that is not really the problem.
I feel violated and that I lost control over what happened to my body. I keep waking up terrified in the early hours and am very tired.

I do not know what to do to feel better (and do not feel I can go back to my GPs as I have made a complaint).

Has anyone else felt like this and if so how did they cope with such overwhelming emotions?

I think you were being very responsible in taking the time and effort to complain, and I applaud you for doing so.  Given your obvious signs of distress the person doing the smear should have stopped trying earlier.  Then ideally you could have gone for a second test with possibly a different smear taker. 

Bad smear test experiences  can put women off going in the future which is not a good thing.  Hopefully your complaint will help to put something right e.g. maybe the person who did your smear needs more support/training etc.  So please try not to feel awkward about going back to your GP; any GP practice worth it's salt wants to know if their services aren't good, then they can make improvements asap.  I know it's easier said than done, but I would suggest one option could be a GP appointment to explain how traumatic the experience was and how it has left you with overwhelming emotions. I would also say that your experience is very recent and dealing with overwhelming emotions does take a bit of time. 

I care about this issue because I had a bad smear test experience and it was partly why I stopped going for smears, with very unfortunate consequences as you can see from my back story. 

Take care



Thankyou for the support Jazza.

I think I will wait for a response from the Practice Manager then decide what to do.

I'm really sorry you had such a bad experience of a smear.  Like you I felt violated and would come home bin the knickers I'd worn and scrub myself in Dettol to feel clean

I'm not telling anyone what to do but actually Cancer research UK state that your lifetime risk of cervical cancer is just 0.65%. That's less than 1% risk of cervical cancer. A lifelong non smoker such as myself mid 50's has an 8% chance of dying of lung cancer! 

Since over 99% of CC is caused by HPV another option might be to source a self test kit for HPV online. Superdrug do one for around £50.

I hope you heal soon.. a few more stats...around 30 million women in the UK of whom around 1000  die each year from cervical cancer. Under the old style smear test around 200,000 smears came back abnormal. Obviously there's no way near this number of cases each year.

Prior to my cc diagnosis I looked at the stats, realised that I didn't tick any of the risk factors (e.g. I've never smoked etc.). and made an 'informed decision' (swayed somewhat by a bad smear test experience, albeit it didn't do me any lasting physical harm) to stop going for smear tests.  I used to complain, vociferously, that I was fed up with being constantly reminded about going for smear tests. 

Since my cc diagnosis/treatment it shocks me how little I knew about what women go through (physically and mentally) when faced with the realities of cervical cancer (or indeed any cancer). Statistically, it may be a small percentage of women that get cc but then it's not just those women that suffer it's also their families etc.  And, statistics are all very well but as an individual I don't experience or feel statistics and really, what's a few minutes for a smear test once every 3 or 5 years in the life of any individual.

I have huge empathy for women who find the smear test a daunting and difficult thing to do, or have been traumatised by a bad smear experience.  Those women (and I was one of them) need and deserve better support, as indeed this charity understands very well.

I agree that hpv self testing has a useful role, although £50 is not affordable for all.  And, like any product, people probably need to research it in terms of quality, reliability, usability etc. prior to purchase.

Oh you poor thing, I can totally sympathise.  I had to have three smears over a course of about 6 months due to inconclusive readings that was terribly frustrating.  I really feel that some nurses don't understand women that experiencing pain on smears and internal examinations. My second smear recently was a horrible experience but not as awful as a hysteroscopy (attempted) I had where I was screaming in pain, crying and shaking and that feeling where you are not in control even when you're saying "no! stop" :-(  I have never experienced anything so dreadful in my life - it has almost got to the stage where I am petrified of sex and my next smear I am dredding.  I can only suggest you speak to your sexual health clinic and ask them about this as obviously you don't want it happening again and maybe they can do the smear and you can explain the issues you have recently had x

I'm so sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. I can empathise with what you are saying: I had a bad experience with a smear on 10th May 2019 and I am still struggling with how I feel about it.

You have done absolutely the right thing to complain: what happened to you is not acceptable and you are very brave to have complained. I complained about what happened to me too: I had to be persistent but I got answers from the practice and an apology from their chief executive. I had trauma counselling with a private practioner and made them pay for it. The practice resolution team said I would need to involve a solicitor for this but I told them that if they would pay for my counselling, I wouldn't seek any further recompense. I got £300 to pay for treatment I can have at home, over Skype so I don't have to go back to a clinical setting, with a practioner registered with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

I am glad that what happened to me led to me finding the Jo's Trust website and unbiased information about screening. I am glad I now feel I have the information I need to make decisions about my health.

Your emotional reaction makes total sense given what happened to you. I still have bad days but I try and remind myself that I am safe now and I have the power to make sure it never happens to me again, whether I go for screening or not. If I do go again, I can explain that I have had a bad experience and find it hard. I can say 'No. I don't feel safe. I'm going to leave now,' and walk out.

It will get better. It won't always feel this bad. You are not alone. x


I can't believe they didn't stop when you said no. That is terrifying, and so disrespectful of you. Can you take someone with you next time, to at least witness what happens if they behave like that again? That sounds awful for you. x

Sorry to hear about your experience. I had my first test today and also felt violated. I hope the practice manager for back to you

Hi Frit1234

I'm sorry to hear you have had such a bad experience & agree with Jazza that you did the right thing to complain. It is difficult dealing with overwhelming emotions; have you tried phoning Jo's helpline? Just having the chance to feel heard may help. Could you also try changing your gp practice or making an appointment with your existing gp to talk about your worries? They owe you the chance to feel heard and it's important that no one else at your practice has the same experience. Was your test with a nurse or a gp? You may feel better once you have faced the fear of going back to the gp and talking about your concerns in person. Remember that cervical screening does save lives and it's important to look after your health. I am 55 and never had an abnormal smear until this year. I have never smoked and statistically considered myself at low risk. The nurse at the colposcopy clinic told me hpv can be contracted even if you have only had one partner and can lie dormant for years even if you are no longer sexually active. Don't give up! Be kind to yourself!  Hope this helps. If you have become anxious about having the test in the future your doctor can make sure that staff are aware by recording this in your notes.