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Calls for urgent action as new poll reveals worrying lack of awareness around life-saving test amongst ethnic minority women

Thu, 14/07/2011 - 01:00

New figures out today reveal a lack of awareness around cervical cancer prevention amongst ethnic minority women could be putting them at risk.

In Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week the results of a YouGov survey for leading charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust highlight an urgent need to improve awareness amongst ethnic minority women of cervical cancer, a disease which claims three lives every day and the vital role screening plays in its prevention.

The poll for the only UK charity dedicated to women and those close to them affected by cervical abnormalities and cervical cancer shows clear differences between white and ethnic minority women on a number of key issues.

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “We are seeing a real contrast between these two groups of women when it comes to knowledge around the disease, how they respond to screening invites and what is needed to boost attendance."

“The message is clearly not getting out there as well as it could that this is a test which saves around 5,000 UK lives each year as almost half of Black and Minority Ethnic Women (BME) (43%) said they wanted a more detailed explanation of the risks of not having screening compared to 36% of white women, whilst 65% BME women think cervical screening is a necessary health test compared to 73% white women."

“There are also real differences in the levels of knowledge when it comes to causes of cervical cancer. Less than half of BME women (49%) knew the Human Papilloma Virus causes cervical cancer while over a quarter (26%) simply said they didn’t know what caused it. Slightly less white women said they did not know what caused it (22%) but 60% were aware of the link to HPV."

“What is very worrying and a stark reminder of the work we need to do is that BAME women were more likely than white women to say they had never attended screening (12% vs 8%)."

“Where and who does the screening is also a bigger issue with BME women. 30% said more choice of where to have the test will encourage them to attend an appointment compared to 22% of white women. And when it comes to being comfortable with who does the screening we clearly need to look closely at the specific needs of each group of women, with almost half (45%) of white women saying they would be comfortable talking to a male GP about cervical screening but only 28% of BME women agreeing with this statement. Booking an appointment is an issue for both groups of women with 39% of BME women saying that extended hours at their GP surgery would encourage them to attend an appointment as did 41% of white women. Flexible opening hours is something the charity has already been calling for and this is a clear example why it is so important."

“Other factors which also appeared crucial to encouraging BME women to attend an appointment were better knowledge about the test and why it is important with almost twice as many BME women (30%) as white women (14%) highlighting this. While more than double the number of BME women (15%) as white women (8%) felt simpler information with more images when they receive their invitation might help in encouraging them to act and book a screening appointment."

“What is also a concern is that that 8% of BME women aged 20-24, compared to 5% of white women said that cervical screening was not relevant to them. This will clearly impact when they are receiving their first screening invite at 20 or 25."

“Although the numbers were small the survey also showed that more BME women appear to feel cervical screening has nothing to do with them. Of those invited for screening, four times as many BME women as white women said ‘It did not seem relevant to me’ (4% BME 1% white)."

“This survey has highlighted some very real concerns in awareness, understanding and acceptance of cervical screening. It also very clearly shows that we all need to think about where it is best to offer screening for BME women and by whom. If we can take positive action from the results of this survey we can hopefully persuade more women from BME communities to attend cervical screening, which quite simply could save their life.”


Notes to Editors
  1.  Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – ( is the UK’s only dedicated cervical cancer charity offering support and information for those affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The charity’s national helpline is on 0808 802 8000.___ 
  2. Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week (EMCAW) takes place between (11-17 July). The week was established three years ago to ensure information on cancer prevention was freely available to everyone from a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) background.
  3. Around three 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.
  4. 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.___
  5. 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’.___
  6. All figures in the release, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1179 white women and 1177 BME women aged 20-65. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30 June – 7 July 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of each group.