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Quarter of Scottish women don’t know what cervical screening is for

Mon, 18/06/2018 - 10:54

Scottish Government funded cervical cancer prevention roadshow launches in Scotland on Monday 18 June 

New research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and the Scottish Government has found two thirds (62%) of Scottish women[1] are unaware that not attending cervical screening is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer. Worryingly high numbers are unaware of what the test is for with a quarter thinking it is a test to check the health of the womb (23%) or to find ovarian cancer (23%).

Cervical screening prevents 75% of cervical cancers from developing yet one in four women in Scotland do not take up their invitation[2]. The new statistics are being released following Cervical Screening Awareness Week (11-17 June) to launch a new initiative funded by the Scottish Government to increase cervical cancer awareness and attendance of cervical screening across the country.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Screening Inequalities Fund, the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Be Cervix Savvy Roadshow is launching in Aberdeen on Monday 18th June and over five and a half weeks travelling to Dundee, Fife, Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Edinburgh. The roadshow aims to educate the public about how they can reduce their risk of cervical cancer including the importance of cervical screening, symptoms of the disease and about the HPV jag. Last year the hugely successful roadshow visited 16 cities across the UK resulting in over 9,000 conversations and over 20,000 information materials distributed to women across the country.

Further findings from the new research of 3,000 Scottish women aged 25-64 found:

  • One in five (22%) don’t know what puts them at risk of cervical cancer with over one in four (30%) wrongly believing the disease is hereditary
  • Almost two thirds (60%) weren’t aware that HPV infection puts them at risk of cervical cancer
  • Almost one in four (24%) wrongly believe that condoms/dental dams fully protect against HPV
  • 95% were unaware that HPV infection usually goes away by itself
  • A worrying 5% think the HPV jag is unsafe and 4% would never let anyone have the HPV jag
  • 13% think there is no relationship between the HPV jag and cervical cancer
  • Half (50%) are unable to identify abnormal bleeding as a symptom of cervical cancer with a third (31%) not knowing any symptoms of cervical cancer
  • Over a quarter would be encouraged to have regular cervical screening if there were more flexible GP surgery opening hours (30%) or if they were able to book an appointment online (29%)
  • Over half (57%) weren’t aware that they could ask for a smaller speculum and one in five (21%) don’t know what would happen if they received an abnormal screening result
  • 86% would prefer to self-sample at home (rising to 92% of those who have previously or are currently delaying)

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Cervical cancer is largely preventable and screening is the best way to protect against the disease, yet one in four Scottish women still don't get their regular smear tests. The roadshows are an innovative way to raise awareness of cervical cancer, and I’d encourage any woman to take the time to visit and find out why screening is so important to help catch cancer at the earliest stages.”


Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Our new research shows that many Scottish women are still unaware of cervical cancer and how they can best protect themselves from the disease. This needs to change. Cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease, thanks to the HPV vaccination and cervical screening programmes, and it is vital that every woman understands the steps they can take to reduce their risk of the disease otherwise we will see lives lost. We are delighted to be working with the Scottish Government and look forward to speaking to as many women as possible on our roadshow.”


For further comment or interviews please contact [email protected] or call 020 3096 8100 / 07772 290064

Notes to editors

[1] Survey of 3,000 Scottish women aged 25-64. Conducted by Censuswide for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust between 01.06.2018 - 14.06.2018

[2] The percentage of eligible women (aged 25 to 64) who were recorded as screened adequately on 31st March 2017 was 73.4%. http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Cervical-Screening/