Community Stories

Lindsey’s Story: A Cervical Cancer Scare, Unanswered Questions, and Turning to Telehealth

June 24, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • When faced with abnormal findings and follow-up procedures, women need more support and information from clinics than they often receive 
  • For those working hectic shift jobs, where taking time off work is tough, at-home cervical cancer testing is a critical option 
  • Women can find meaningful relationships with providers via telehealth, which offers reliable communication
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Lindsey, a 26-year-old Black woman living in St. Louis, Missouri, tells me about her experience with an abnormal cervical cancer screening result, a colposcopy, and the many looming questions she had to navigate. Through it all, Lindsey filled in information gaps for herself, as communicating with her in-clinic providers proved challenging – this is a barrier Lindsey hopes Teal’s telehealth platform, enabling consistent access to providers, can resolve.


The First ‘Abnormal’ Result

At the time of her screening, Lindsey was working as a restaurant server downtown and putting in any spare hours in her day to complete her law school applications. She describes this as an overwhelmingly stressful period in her life.


At first, Lindsey couldn’t shake the feeling that something felt ‘off’ – she had an IUD, which meant she did not get regular periods, but she was experiencing spotting that did not feel normal. It is important to trust ourselves to know when something doesn’t feel quite right with our body, and act on that feeling, as Lindsey did. At the clinic, she was informed that she needed to get a cervical cancer screening, as she was unaware that she was a year and a half overdue.


She was driving when the clinic called her back with results. 

“You have abnormal cells in your cervix, and we need to schedule you for further testing.” 

“What are you testing me for?” 

“Cervical cancer.” 

Those words rang in her head. She describes crying the entire drive home as she was digesting the possibility that she might have cervical cancer. Once she gathered herself, she realized she had so many more questions that needed to be answered.


Navigating the Unanswered Questions and Healthcare Gaps

What about the results indicated she could have cervical cancer? What were her chances of having cervical cancer? What is a colposcopy? She called her clinic back to get a better understanding but was only provided with loose explanations from a non-clinical staff person. “You do a procedure to remove a small chunk from your cervix for testing, send it off, and you will hear back 2 weeks after that.” For Lindsey, this was not enough. Without much support, she had to do her own research to fill in the gaps.


Taking matters into her own hands, Lindsey relied on Google and her sister to understand more about what was happening with her body. She learned more about the colposcopy procedure and how to interpret her abnormal results (which is a rather common finding). Being someone who believes in more action and awareness around women’s health, Lindsey tells me that she now knows that abnormal cervical cancer screening results are common, but highlights that it is a problem these issues are still not widely talked about.


Lindsey faced several barriers which delayed her colposcopy, including lapses in her health insurance and figuring out how to take time off work. While she remembers being terrified for the colposcopy, she had her father there to support her. After two weeks, Lindsey had still not heard back from the clinic about her results. Taking initiative once again, Lindsey called the clinic and learned that her results were clear. She is scheduled to have another cervical cancer screening in 6 months and may then be able to move to yearly screenings.


Built on Reliable Relationships with Providers, Teal Offers More Than An Accessible Screening  

Talking about Teal Health and the Teal Wand (which Lindsey was able to use as a participant in Teal’s clinical trial), Lindsey says, “Screening would be a lot more feasible, a lot easier, not just in terms of testing but also understanding my results afterward.”


For Lindsey and many of her friends (who also work in the restaurant industry and commute long distances), having an at-home cervical cancer screening option would make the difference between staying up-to-date on their screenings or falling behind. Lindsey tells me that Teal’s at-home option, supported by telehealth, would resolve major barriers in her access to care. She would not have to figure out the travel logistics to a clinic, nor book an appointment and deal with wait times, nor take time off work to go into a clinic. Confidently, she tells me the same would be the case for her friends.


Throughout our conversation, Lindsey made it clear that she did not receive an adequate level of communication from the clinic when getting her screening and still has questions. What could have possibly caused her abnormal result? What are her next steps in preventive care? What can she do lifestyle-wise? Along these lines, she tells me that she looks forward to using Teal Health, not just because of the ease that at-home screening offers, but more so because of the consistent and reliable telehealth support from Teal’s medical providers when it comes time to understanding results and attending to follow-up care.


With Teal’s platform, Lindsey highlights that she could easily communicate with providers using virtual visits and confidential messaging. Rather than having to rely on ‘Dr. Google,’ Lindsey looks forward to building trusting relationships with providers over telehealth, where she can access steady support and receive comprehensive information around her care. 


Thank you, Lindsey, for generously sharing your story. We at Teal Health are incredibly grateful to all our study participants, with a special acknowledgement for those who shared their personal stories about cervical cancer screening with us.


Meghna Mukherjee, PhD

Meghna Mukherjee has a PhD in medical sociology, with a focus on women’s health and health inequities. She has studied reproduction, fertility, and genetic health technologies, with particular interest in understanding how medicalized spaces and interactions around technologies reinforce social hierarchies.

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