Cancer Research UK responds to claims that its new campaign is 'anti-woman'

Photo: iSTOCK / Steve Debenport / Twitter / @CR_UK
Photo: iSTOCK / Steve Debenport / Twitter / @CR_UK

Unsurprisingly, Cancer Research UK was recently met with online backlash for its admirable choice to use trans-inclusive language in a new smear test campaign.

In a recent tweet, accompanied by a reassuring animation detailing the process of actually being tested, the company wrote:

Cervical screening (or the smear test) is relevant for everyone aged 25-64 with a cervix.

This is objectively factual information.

It's also important information, as statistics show that nine new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK every day. The earlier these cases are detected, the better.

As for the use of 'everyone with a cervix' in lieu of the word 'woman', Dr Helen Webberley clarifies in a press release that the language is used specifically to appeal to trans men and non-binary people, as many are not routinely called for cervical screening. Cisgender women are given reminders to book appointments. Webberley explains:

The numbers of transgender people living openly in the UK is on the increase.

As more people successfully change their gender marker on their NHS records, there is a risk that their right to lifesaving anatomy-specific screening will fall between the cracks.

This is because if you are labelled as female on your NHS records you will automatically be called for cervical screening. If you are labelled as male you won't.

In essence, replacing the word 'woman' with 'everybody with a cervix' is an attempt to more accurately define the potential victims of cervical cancer.

But obviously, people had a problem with the tweet as they felt it erased women.

Webberley shut down this accusation, stating:

Cancer Research UK is not being anti woman in its reference to 'people with a cervix', but rather acknowledging the fact that whether you chose to live your life as a woman or not, if you were born with a womb screening can save your life.

As GPs it is our job to ensure that patients are aware of the importance of such tests, and that they feel comfortable enough to communicate their history without fear of prejudice.

There is no place for ignorance and uncertainty in the GP surgery.

More: How feminism can help in the fight against ‘TERFs’

The Conversation (0)