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Event on cervical cancer and cervical screening in BME communities: raising awareness and overcoming barriers

Thu, 26/01/2012 - 00:00

Representatives from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups throughout the country are today coming together to discuss ways of improving awareness of cervical cancer and the benefits of cervical screening.

The event, which will comprise over 50 participants, is being co-hosted by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust as part of cervical cancer prevention week 2012. It represents part of an ongoing drive to reach women from BME groups.

Extensive research, including a survey in 2011 by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, has shown that both awareness of cervical cancer and uptake of screening are considerably lower in BME women when compared to the wider population. The conference will pull together groups from around the country to discuss their awareness and to share and develop local best practice approaches that can provide women with the reassurance they need to make decisions around screening.

Speaking after the event, Professor Julietta Patnick CBE, Director of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, said: “We know that women from black and minority ethnic communities are less sure of their cervical cancer risk than white women and less likely to accept screening invitations. We are currently working hard to understand and overcome specific barriers, and to reach women with the message that screening saves lives. Today’s event presents a fantastic opportunity for us to communicate directly with a range of community groups and to work together to develop ways of helping women from these groups make informed choices about screening.”

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working with the NHS Cervical Screening Programme on this important event. We are aware there are challenges to screening uptake in BME communities and a survey we ran last year revealed a lack of awareness around screening that could be putting women at risk of cervical cancer. The survey showed clear differences between white and ethnic minority women on a number of key issues when it comes to knowledge around the disease, how they respond to screening invites and what is needed to boost attendance. I hope this important meeting will help increase knowledge of cervical screening and that organisations attending can take key messages about the importance of cervical cancer prevention back to their communities.”

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors:
About the NHS Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP)
• Cervical screening is not a test for cancer. It is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating early abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer in a woman's cervix (the neck of the womb).
• Early detection and treatment can prevent 75 per cent of cancers developing but like other screening tests, it is not perfect. It may not always detect early cell changes that could lead to cancer.
• It is estimated that 4,500 lives are saved every year in England through cervical screening.The NHS Cervical Screening Programme routinely invites women aged 25 to 49 for a cervical screening test every three years, and those aged 50 – 64 every five years.
• There are over 100 subtypes of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Most do not cause significant disease in humans. However, some subtypes, notably types 16 and 18, 31 and 33, have been confirmed as agents which cause cervical cancer. “High risk” HPV types have been found to be present in close to 100% of all cervical cancers.
• HPV infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and the majority of sexually active women will come into contact with high risk HPV types at some time in their life. In most women, their bodies' own immune system will get rid of the infection without them ever knowing it was there. Only a minority who are positive for high risk HPV types will develop cervical abnormalities (CIN) which could develop into cervical cancer if left untreated. For further information about the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, please visit the website:

About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

• 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 802 800.
• 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.
• 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

The results of a YouGov survey for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust amongst white and BME women shows that:

  • almost half of BME women (43%) said they wanted a more detailed explanation of the risks of not having screening compared to 36% of white women.
  • less than half of BME women (49%) knew the Human Papilloma Virus can cause 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.
  • Almost a quarter of BME women said they had never attended a cervical screening appointment (23%) compared to 14% of white women.
  • 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 might help in encouraging them to attend screening.
  • 8% of BME women aged 20-24, compared to 5% of white women, were saying that cervical screening was not relevant to them. This will clearly impact when they are receiving their first screening invite at 20 or 25.
  • of those women invited for screening, four times as many BME women as white women said ‘It did not seem relevant to me’ (4% BME 1% white).
  • The above figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1179 white and BME women aged 20-65. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30 June – 7 July 2011.

For further information, please contact the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes' press office on 0207 400 4499 or e-mail [email protected]. Diaries depending, the following people may be available for interview:
• Professor Julietta Patnick CBE, Director, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes
• Robert Music, Director, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
• Adeola Olaiten, Consultant Gynaecologist, UCL, Chair of the BME meeting
• Dr Mina Desai CBE, Head of Cytopathology Service, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust