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BME communities approached as part of a drive to improve awareness of cervical cancer prevention

Tue, 22/01/2013 - 00:00

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and the NHS Cancer Screening Programme are targeting key organisations and groups in the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community following ongoing concerns over a lack of awareness of cervical cancer and prevention of the disease.

During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week BME groups will come together at a conference in Manchester on Thursday 24th January 2013 designed to raise awareness of cervical cancer and cervical screening. As part of this, they will hear from experts who have successfully run awareness programmes and so learn from best practice.

Every year in the UK over 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and around 1,000 will die from the disease. In the UK, uptake for cervical screening shows 1 in 5 are not being screened, but research has shown that this could be even worse for women from a minority background where awareness of the disease and ways to prevent it are significantly lower.

A study* run by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust revealed clear differences between white and BME women on a number of key issues including relevance of cervical screening, knowledge of the disease and the cervical screening test, how they would like to be communicated with and who they feel comfortable carrying out the procedure.

When it came to knowledge about cervical screening just over half (53%) of BME women thought screening was a necessary health test compared to 67% of white women. And worryingly 78% of BME women (and just 70% of Asian women) knew what the cervical screening test is for compared to 91% of white women.

Twice as many BME women (30% BME compared to 14% white) said they would like a better understanding of the test before attending, whilst 51% of BME women wanted more detailed explanation of what the risks were if they didn’t attend compared to 32% of white women. Additionally double the number of BME women felt simpler information with more images when they receive their invitation might help to encourage them to book a screening appointment. And when it came to who they felt comfortable talking to about screening just 28% BME women said they would be happy talking to a male GP (compared to 45% white women).

And worryingly a third more BME women of screening age (12%) compared to white women (8%) said they had never attended a cervical screening appointment.

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “We are seeing a real contrast between different groups of women which looks to be having an impact on the numbers of BME women attending their cervical screening test. It is crucial that we look at the individual needs of each community and address how best to reach them. We hope this event will enable the BME groups attending to learn about how to deliver targeted information on cervical cancer prevention, share best practice and ultimately help raise cervical screening attendance and save lives.

“If we are going to see an improvement there must also be far greater investment in education about the disease, the running of more targeted education campaigns and ensuring appropriate screening opportunities for BME women are set up if they want them”

Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, added: “This 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 make informed choices around screening. It is part of an ongoing drive to reach women from BME communities with the message that screening saves lives.”
Deepa Soobiah, a cervical cancer survivor from London said:

“After I had my daughter in January 2009, I felt exhausted most of the time. I put it down to looking after a newborn, but by November 2010 I’d started to think something may be seriously wrong. I had lower back ache, which I’d put down to my body recovering after giving up breastfeeding. I also started to suffer irregular bleeding in-between periods – which I thought was just hormones.

“As Christmas came I was very unwell and started to bleed every day: then I really started to panic. I was due a cervical screening test in the January so I decided not to get checked until then. After several tests including a colposcopy I was diagnosed with cervical cancer – it was absolutely devastating.

“Being from an Asian background I understand why women might not talk about the issues surrounding cervical cancer but it is shocking to see just how low awareness is compared to the wider population. It can be taboo in some communities especially where people connect it to being a sexually transmitted disease when it’s not.

“Symptoms are very rare with early stage cervical cancer so I would urge all women to keep up to date with their cervical screening tests. However, should women experience any symptoms, they should see a doctor as soon as possible. I was symptomatic but should never have waited for my cervical screening test as this is not a test for cancer, but rather a test to detect abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.

“Cervical cancer can affect women from all backgrounds so I’m pleased to see that Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is working hard to target women who may not prioritise a cervical screening test or may not be aware of the disease.”

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

Further information from the BME survey

* 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.

- 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 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).

Notes to Editors:
About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
• 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’s national helpline is on 0808 802 800.
• Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place between January 20-26 2013. The Week aims to raise awareness of all things on all things to do with cervical cancer including information about symptoms and causes of the disease, ways to prevent it and support us.

About cervical cancer
• 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

About cervical screening
• 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 5,000 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: http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical/index.html