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Coronation Street star joins leading charity in national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to call for urgent action as new figures reveal women over 50 are turning their backs on life-saving test

Mon, 23/01/2012 - 00:00

Helen Worth is joining a leading charity in national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (22-28 January) to call for urgent action as new figures reveal women over 50 are turning their backs on a life-saving test.

The Coronation Street actress said she was “surprised” to discover that women in this age group surveyed by YouGov for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust regarded cervical screening as unnecessary and irrelevant.

“The message that cervical cancer is preventable and that cervical screening plays a huge part in that, saving around 5,000 lives in the UK every year, is clearly not getting through.

“It was worrying to discover screening numbers in women over 50 dropped for the first time in a decade in 2010 and latest figures show the numbers dropping again.

“There are clearly women in this age group who don’t think they need screening any more, that it’s not their problem.”

Nearly one in three (31%) of the women aged 50 - 70 questioned by YouGov for the charity failed to realise that cervical screening was a necessary health test for all women with that figure more than doubling (64%) amongst those who had never attended screening.

Single, separated and divorced women were more likely to have never been for screening compared to women who were married or in a relationship and single women were more likely to feel that the invitation they received inviting them to a screening “did not seem relevant”.***

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.

“I was shocked that three UK women die from cervical cancer every day and someone is diagnosed every three hours. We need to do more to let women over fifty know that cervical cancer is preventable and that you can take very real steps towards that - and that this guidance applies as much to them as to younger women. If you are over 50, what is a five minute test every five years if it could save your life?

“I am joining forces with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust because I want to help raise awareness amongst women in this age group, to urge them not to ignore their screening invitation for this vital test, to understand the causes of this disease and to know the symptoms.”

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information for those affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities, said: “We are so pleased that Helen Worth is joining our call for urgent action, following the results of our survey. We know Helen will be of enormous help to us in raising awareness amongst this age group.

“The survey figures highlight why we are now seeing drop-offs in screening uptake in the over 50s. It is of real concern that misinformation and myth prevail while the accurate information is just not connecting.

“Over two thirds (68%) were unaware that the main cause of Cervical Cancer is HPV (the Human Papillomavirus). Over half of women (51%) in this age group told us they thought cervical cancer was caused by having multiple sexual partners and almost one in five thought it was hereditary (18%). We clearly need to remind women that they can have one sexual partner and still be at risk from HPV.

“There is a desperate need for us to find ways to improve women’s understanding of Cervical Cancer and the action they can take to help reduce their risk.”

Findings of the YouGov survey for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust include:
• Single, separated and divorced groups were most likely to say the screening invitation seemed irrelevant. [Divorce rates amongst this group of women are rising dramatically* as rates fall for all other ages]
• Less than half of women in the survey (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 the women surveyed knew all the symptoms of Cervical Cancer,
• Of the women surveyed who said they had been disappointed with their experience and, or treatment from the person carrying out the test in the past**** one in three delayed or even failed to book screening.

For more information contact Elizabeth Udall, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on 07515 852690 or [email protected]

Notes for Editors

• Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 22-28 January 2012
• Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) National Helpline 0808 802 8000
• Around three women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone being diagnosed every three hours facing an uncertain future. Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment
• It is estimated that the NHS Cervical Screening Programme saves 5,000 lives every year. Cervical cancer is predominantly caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can be caught as soon as you start having intimate relationships
• NHS Cervical Screening Programme 2009-10 figures showed screening coverage for women over 50 drop below 80% for the first time in 10 years and in 2010-11 they dropped again - from 78.9% to 78%.
• *Latest ONS figures show that more than 13,700 over 60s were granted a divorce in 2009, up 4% in two years – this contrasts with an 11% fall in all other age groups
• ** The NHSCSP Audit of invasive cervical cancer national report 2007-10
*** YouGov found that single, separated and divorced women were significantly more likely (four times more likely) to have never been for screening (4%) compared to women who were married or in a relationship (1%) and single women were more likely to feel that the invitation they received inviting them to a screening “did not seem relevant” (6%)
• **** Around one in 14 of the women surveyed said they had been disappointed with their experience and, or treatment from the person carrying out the test in the past
• In Scotland, in the past ten years, Cervical Screening coverage has dropped from 91.1% in the 50-54 age group and 87.6% in women aged 55-59 (2001-2) to 84.4% and 82.1% respectively (2010-11) In Wales coverage has dropped as follows:
• 2001-2 Women aged 50-54 85.4%; 55-59 81.9%; 60-64 76.3%
• 2010-11 Women aged 50-54 80.4%; 55-59 78.3%; 60-64 75.2%
• The survey was funded with a grant from Roche Diagnostics
• All figures in the release, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2397 women aged 50-70. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16 and 21 December 2011.