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Every year in the UK, around 3,200 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is the most common cancer in women under 35. The NHS Cervical Screening Programme prevents 75% of cervical cancers, saving 5,000 lives in the UK each year, but over the past five years, 3.7 million women have not attended. Research shows that women from Minority Ethnic and disadvantaged communities are less likely to attend.
Commissioned by Manchester Health & Care Commissioning and conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, this research aimed to explore barriers to, and ways to improve, the uptake of cervical screening among BAME women in north Manchester.
To undertake this research, we used both qualitative and quantitative data using three focus groups and an online survey to gather data and offer a richer and hopefully true account of the issues within BAME communities. In total 153 people took part in this research, 86 from BAME communities. Three focus groups were conducted with Pakistani (10), Indian (7) and Bangladeshi (10) women, and an online survey was completed by 126 comprising of 59 BAME: 67 white women.
The online survey data revealed that 56.1% of BAME women delayed an invitation to screening with 15.8% delaying by more than three years. Less white women (34.6%) compared to BAME women (56.1%) have delayed attending. Common barriers across both BAME and white women were; they put off going, they forget the appointment and concerns about the test being painful.
The data shows a lack of knowledge about signs of cervical cancer and what a smear test is for. It also highlights the need to tackle barriers such as fear of pain, embarrassment, previous bad experiences, childcare and difficulty in getting a GP appointment.
Key findings from the focus groups showed that among women who attended:
Whilst all Bangladeshi and Indian women believed that cervical cancer can be treated, 30% of Pakistani women disagreed. Despite this, Indian and Pakistani women had better levels of awareness about what cervical cancer is compared to Bangladeshi women.