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Employers and GPs need to do more to help women protect themselves against a disease that claims three lives every day, new figures out today reveal.
A lack of flexibility by employers and GPs in enabling women to attend cervical screening could be putting women at risk, according to the results of a YouGov survey for leading charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the only UK charity dedicated to women and those close to them affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer.
Cervical screening saves around 5,000 lives every year in the UK. However, a significant number of women taking part in the survey stated that lack of appointment choice at surgeries and difficulty taking time off work is a factor in them delaying or even missing this vital test.
Key findings from the survey, announced at the start of national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (23-29 January) include:
• Over a third of women of screening age* that work (39%) and have missed or delayed appointments said they didn’t find it easy to leave work in order to attend cervical screening appointments and more than a quarter (26%) admitted they would be more encouraged to attend if their company was more flexible and they didn’t have to take holiday for an appointment.
• Only 16% of women of screening age* that have missed or delayed appointments agreed that their GP surgery offers screening appointments in the evenings or on weekends which has made it easier to attend a screening.
• Almost one in three (30%) women aged 25-34 that have missed or delayed appointments and work said they always book holidays to attend appointments because they were too embarrassed to talk to their employers
• Almost a third (29%) of women of screening age* who missed or delayed a screening appointment said it is hard to book an appointment for cervical screening at a convenient time.
• Of women of screening age* who had missed or delayed appointments, 35% agreed that if GP surgery opening times had been more flexible it would have encouraged them or even ensured they attended those appointments.
Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “It is less than two weeks since the government’s new cancer strategy Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer was announced, which highlighted the need for greater emphasis and investment on prevention, including improving access to cancer screening programmes. The results of this survey shows there is still much to do and we call on employers and GPs to think creatively about how they will ensure women are given every opportunity to attend screening when invited.”
“When you consider that approaching 14 million women in the UK are in full or part-time employment the potential impact employers’ lack of flexibility could be having on women’s health is huge.”
“It is also worrying to see that almost a third of the age group of women least likely to respond to their screening invitation – 25-34, and indeed who said they had delayed or missed an appointment, booked holiday to attend screening because they were too embarrassed to talk to their employers.”
“And GP surgeries undeniably have a key role to play in boosting screening uptake. Women’s’ responses make it clear that evening and weekend appointments would make a significant difference to what action they would take when receiving their invitation. ”
“Giving a woman just a couple of hours off work every three years or five years or simply offering her an appointment outside normal surgery hours could mean the difference between life and death.
21st January 2011
Notes to Editors
1. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – (www.jostrust.org.uk) is the UK’s only dedicated cervical cancer charity offering support and information for those affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The charity launches a new national helpline on 23 January. Call 0808 802 8000.
2. Around 3 women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone being diagnosed every 3 hours, facing an uncertain future. Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment.
3. It is estimated that the UK Cervical Screening Programmes save 5,000 lives every year and if HPV vaccination take up continues to reach at least 80% it is believed this could result in a 2/3rds reduction in incidence in women under 30 by 2025.
4. Although cervical screening coverage across the UK has remained steady (based on the last 5 years), uptake figures for 2009-10 were lower than 2008-9 when there was an upsurge in screening attendance due to the ‘Jade Goody effect’.
5. 32% of women that took part in the survey have missed or delayed a cervical screening appointment.
6. All figures in the release, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2718 women of which 2467 were of screening age (*Women aged 20+ in Scotland and Wales and 25+ in England and Northern Ireland). Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th to 10th January 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK Women (aged 18+).
7. The Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust YouGov survey was funded thanks to a grant from Roche Diagnostics Limited.