Understanding perceptions of cervical screening among 50 to 70 year old women

Cervical screening uptake for women who are screened every 5 years (aged 50-64 years old) is declining with specific worries for women aged 60-64 where uptake has reached an 18-year low. Furthermore an NHS report* found 56% of women aged 50-64 with fully invasive cancer hadn't been screened within seven years, compared to only 16% of women without cervical cancer. In response to this Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust commissioned a survey with YouGov in 2011 which explored knowledge of cervical cancer and barriers to screening for women aged 50 to 70.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2397 females aged 50 to 70. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16 and 21 December 2011.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK females aged 50 to 70.

Key findings include:

  • 31% didn't consider screening necessary for all women with that figure more than doubling (67%) amongst those who had never attended screening
  • 68% were unaware that the main cause of cervical cancer is HPV
  • Single, separated and divorced women were more likely to have never been for screening compared to women who were married or in a relationship  
  • Only 33% said the information they received was informative and less than half (49%) thought their screening invite made it clear why the test is important
  • 37% said they would be more likely to book a screening appointment if they were given age-relevant information
  • Only 11% of all those surveyed knew all the symptoms of cervical cancer

These results show that there are significant barriers to screening amongst this group including a lack of knowledge about the disease, about the test as well as negative feelings about the procedure. Furthermore information provided on cervical screening invitation letters needs to be more detailed, highlighting the importance of attending cervical screening regardless of ones age. Due to these results Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is running more targeted outreach and campaigning work for this older age group (see page  9 of our Annual Review 2012).

* The NHSCSP Audit of invasive cervical cancer national report 2007-10

See full survey results

Read the press release on the survey

Date last updated: 
23 Feb 2016