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One in four Scottish women at risk from cervical cancer

Mon, 11/06/2012 - 01:00

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust calls for more women to take up their screening invite

The UK’s only dedicated cervical cancer charity has launched a targeted campaign to mark national Cervical Screening Awareness Week (10-16 June) and to urge more women in Scotland to attend their cervical screening test as statistics show one in four women did not take up their screening invitation putting themselves at risk of developing cervical cancer.

For women aged between 25 and 29 the number of those at risk is even greater as 68.7% of this cohort missed their screening invitation in 2010-11. The problem is echoed in older women where 23% of female Scots aged between 50 and 60 also failed to get screened last year.

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK's only charity dedicated to women and those close to them affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities said: “Each year the UK screening programme saves 5,000 lives yet one in four Scottish women are not attending their cervical screening test and over 300 women in Scotland are diagnosed with the disease. Cervical screening can help reduce these numbers so the more we can do to stress the importance of this life saving test the better.”

“With such a worrying decline in numbers, our campaign is also targeting Glasgow where uptake is 70% - the lowest in the country. Adverts urging eligible women to get screened will adorn buses across the city with a potential to reach 92% of the city’s population.”

UK-wide research conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust highlighted several barriers to women attending. A number of women cited that they didn’t feel screening was a necessary test, many found it hard to understand the information they received whilst a lack of awareness about the causes, symptoms and ways to prevent cervical cancer all came to light through three surveys targeting women of screening age, the over 50’s and BME communities.

A survey looking at barriers in the workplace also showed some women found it difficult to arrange an appointment for screening around their busy work schedules whilst more flexibility from GPs around appointment times would encourage them to make it more of a priority.

“It appears that more and more women every year are putting off getting screened for a multitude of reasons. These women are not getting the right support and information or they are simply not being reached at all. This is particularly true of BME communities where we see a greater lack of awareness which may lead to fewer numbers being screened compared to white women. This is something that needs to be urgently addressed.

“Another major contributing factor to women not attending is embarrassment and fear of the procedure. We want to reverse this trend by reassuring those who are nervous about the test that it’s a simple five minute procedure that could save their life.”

Of those aged between 50 and 70, a survey revealed a lack of understanding amongst Scottish women with almost half (55%) wrongly assuming screenings are a test to find cancer. Similarly 37% of those questioned in Scotland did not identify the human papilloma virus (HPV) as the cause for cervical cancer whilst 48% associated the disease with multiple sexual partners when in fact it only takes one sexual encounter to contract HPV.

“Older eligible women need to be aware that cervical screening is not just for the young and it’s worrying to see an alarming lack of understanding around the causes or cervical cancer.

“It’s clear that a job needs to be done for more targeted campaigns to reach individual groups of women across Scotland and the rest of the UK with the relevant information and reassurance that will encourage them to attend.”

For further information contact Maddy Durrant, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust on 020 7936 7498 / 07772 290 064 or email [email protected]

Further information

Issues around GP and employer flexibility*.
• 28% of Scottish respondents of screening age that have missed or delayed an appointment said they have found it difficult to book a cervical screening appointment with their GP in the past
• 34% of Scottish of screening age that have missed or delayed an appointment said they found it difficult to book a cervical screening appointment at a convenient time
• 29% of Scottish respondents of screening age that have missed or delayed an appointment said they found the procedure embarrassing
• Only 35% of Scottish respondents of screening age that work felt that their employer understands the importance of women attending a cervical screening test
• Only 18% of Scottish respondents of screening age said their GP surgery offers screening appointments in evenings or weekends which has made it easier to attend a screening
• 30% of UK respondents aged 25-34 that have missed or delayed appointments and work always book holiday to attend appointments as they were too embarrassed to talk to employers

*From YouGov Plc. Total sample size 2718 women of which 2467 were of screening age. Women aged 20+ in Scotland and Wales and 25+ in England and Northern Ireland. Fieldwork undertaken between 7th and 10th January 2011. The survey was carried out online.

Differences between BME and white women*
• 1/3rd more BME women of screening age (12%) compared to white women (8%) said they had never attended a cervical screening appointment.
• 70% of Asian women aged 20-65 knew what screening is a test to check cells from the cervix to find pre-cancerous abnormalities against 91% of white women aged 20-65.
• 53% of BME women aged 55-65 think screening is a necessary health test against 67% of white women aged 55-65.
• Almost half (45%) of white women would be comfortable talking to a male GP about cervical screening but only 28% of BME women agreed.
• Twice as many BME women as white women said better knowledge about the test and why it is important would encourage them to attend (30% against 14%)

*From YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1179 white women and 1177 BME women aged 20-65. Fieldwork undertaken between 30 June – 7 July 2011. The survey was carried out online.

Of 50-70 year old women surveyed*:
• 55% of Scottish respondents thought cervical screening was a test to find cervical cancer
• 18% of Scottish respondents had not been for a cervical screening for over 10 years and 23% in over 5 years
• The following would encourage Scottish women aged 50 to 64 to attend their cervical screening test:
o Knowing that I can be seen by a female health care professional – 36%
o Extended hours at my GP surgery – 24%
o More choice of where to have the screening test (i.e. different clinics to my GP surgery) – 15%
o Nothing would encourage me to attend an appointment – 12%
• 31% of UK women didn’t consider screening necessary for all women with that figure more than doubling (67%) amongst those who had never attended screening.
• 68% of UK women were unaware that the main cause of Cervical Cancer is HPV
• Single women aged 50 to 70 from across the UK were most likely to say the screening invitation seemed irrelevant (5%).
• Only 33% of UK women 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% of UK women said they would be more likely to book a screening appointment if they were given age-relevant information

*From YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2397 women aged 50 – 70. Fieldwork undertaken between 16 and 21 December 2011 The survey was carried out online.

1. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust – (www.jostrust.org.uk). For the charity's national helpline call 0808 802 8000
2. Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment.
3. 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.