It’s striking that neither relies on fair information to invite women for screening. What is the risk of missing a single smear and dying of cervical cancer? I don’t know, but it is very low (see Raffle). Why do we not give fair information and instead rely on fear as a motivation for screening?
The results of a campaign like this include harms. Sadly, these often go ignored. Strikingly, many women have complained on websites about their exclusion from screening because they are aged under 25. Many of these women feel that they too could leave their child an orphan because they aren’t eligible for screening. It’s clear that in this group of women, screening is unhelpful and harmful. But because screening is presented by the NHS as a simple choice rather than a complex process and balance of harm and help, we invite women under 25 to see themselves as at risk simply because of their age, and we offer them fear rather than information.
The continued use of fear to scare women, rather than fair information to give us knowledge and the ability to make informed choices is an ongoing scandal. It degrades women. It needs to stop.