On Saturday 17th June, the Answer Cancer Engagement Team had a stall at Salford’s Pink Picnic where they provided information and had conversations with attendees to raise awareness of cancer and promote the importance of attending cancer screening appointments.

During the day, a member of the team had a conversation with a lesbian couple about the importance of checking their breasts, discussing how any changes are important to act on. Both of the women were very well informed about this subject.

During the conversation, the engagement worker also asked if they were both up to date with their cervical smear tests. One member of the couple sighed, and looked at her other half, saying, “I’m up to date, but my wife isn’t. She won’t go and I’m worried about her!” The engagement worker encouraged the other woman to talk about why she wasn’t taking up her invitations for a cervical smear and found out that she was worried about discomfort. The engagement worker was able to offer her reassurance that she could talk to healthcare professionals about her fears and ask for help.

Both women were really encouraged by this conversation with the Answer Cancer Engagement team and said that they would support each other to follow this up with their GP practice.

The team also spoke to a non-binary individual in their late twenties who began a conversation about how they had not attended checks for cervical cancer because they were worried about whether their non-binary identity would be respected. The team member was able to reassure them that they would be treated with respect by the NHS and that the individual could contact their GP surgery to talk further about this. They discussed how important it is for anyone with a cervix to attend a smear test and the non-binary individual said that they would follow up their invitation. They then asked about checking breasts and the team member was able to provide them with accessible information to take away about breast checks and spoke about the importance of being aware of any changes.

What have we learnt from these interactions?

  • Many women and those with cervixes are worried about experiencing discomfort during a cervical smear test and this can be a barrier to them taking up a screening invitation. They don’t know that they can talk to a healthcare professional about their worries and that there are tips and techniques for making the experience more comfortable. As well as promoting the importance of attending cervical screenings, the Answer Cancer Team can help by letting everyone know that support is available.
  • Fear of identity discrimination can prevent people from taking up invitations for screenings and that our conversations with people at events like the Pink Picnic can reassure them that they will be treated with respect as well as highlighting the importance to their health of attending screenings.