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National charity launches film to promote the importance of cervical screening to women with low health literacy from a BME background

Thu, 23/07/2015 - 16:53

A new film resource about cervical screening (smear tests) aimed at women with low health literacy from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities has been launched during Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month in July. The film entitled 'Your Guide to Cervical Screening (smear test)' was produced by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and aims to help ensure women from all backgrounds can make an informed choice about cervical screening.

Every day eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three die from the disease. Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to the NHS cervical screening programme yet 22.2% of UK women do not take up their screening invitation when invited. Research suggests that awareness of cervical cancer and prevention is lower amongst women from an ethnic minority background and these women have a different perception and face different barriers to screening than white women.

One study[1] has shown that several BME women did not recognise the term 'cervical screening' or 'smear test'. Barriers to cervical screening include emotional (fear, embarrassment, shame), practical (lack of time) as well as many considering themselves to be low risk. 

A study by the charity revealed that a third more BME women of screening age (12%) compared to white women (8%) said they had never attended a cervical screening appointment. Furthermore only 28% of BME women said they would feel comfortable talking to a male GP[2].

When it came to knowledge of the test 30% of Asian women didn't identify that a cervical screening is a test to check the cells from the cervix to find pre-cancerous abnormalities. Emotional barriers have also been shown to be more prominent among this ethnic group[1].

Research shows that 43% of adults (18-65) do not have adequate literacy skills to understand health information and 61% of adults (18-65) do not have adequate numeracy skills to understand health information[3]. 'Your Guide to Cervical Screening (smear test)' offers another way for women to gain information about cervical screening, covering what will happen during the test and how the test can help to prevent cancer. The film has been made with input from focus groups of ethnic minority women from across the Midlands as well as the Resource Development Reference Group made up of experts in screening and local community groups. The film features real women from different ethnic backgrounds alongside animation to clearly explain the process and what to expect at screening.

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, commented: "It is estimated the cervical screening programme saves 5,000 UK lives every year so it’s vital that women from all backgrounds and ethnicities have the right information and support to access cervical screening. Our research has shown that culture, faith and religion can all affect a woman's ability to access health programmes. We hope this free film is used by healthcare professionals and community groups to reassure those who might be putting it off or to educate those who don’t understand the purpose of the test."

Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, managed by Public Health England, commented: "We are aware that cervical screening attendance is lower for women from an ethnic minority background for a variety of reasons, and this video is an excellent resource which can play a role in reducing a woman’s anxiety about what cervical screening involves, and we are pleased to support it.

"Cervical cancer is largely preventable, therefore it’s important women realise that regular attendance at screening remains the top preventative measure against the disease."

Heather Nelson JP, National Director, BME Cancer Voice commented: "Cervical screening uptake among women from BME communities has always been lower than that of white women. Research has shown over the years there are several reasons for this. The understanding of these barriers real and/or perceived within diverse communities has to be understood to effectively raise awareness and understanding of the screening process; what it is and why it takes place. Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust's 'Your Guide to Cervical Screening' is excellent in its inclusivity and a step in the right direction.  We are happy to have been involved in a small way to making a difference."

The film can be viewed by visiting the Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust website and it is also available on their YouTube channel.


For further information, comment or case studies please contact:

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust media team on [email protected] or call 020 7250 8311


Notes to editors

About Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK's only charity dedicated to supporting women and their families affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The charity also campaigns to increase awareness of the disease and bring down numbers diagnosed through promoting the cervical screening and HPV vaccination programmes. The charity’s national helpline is on 0808 802 8000.

About cervical cancer and abnormalities

  • Around 3 women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone diagnosed every 3 hours
  • Over 300,000 women a year are told they may have a cervical abnormality that could require treatment
  • The majority (99.7%) of cervical cancers are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes changes to the cervical cells. Anyone who is sexually active can be infected with HPV at some time

For more information on Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month visit:  http://www.cancerequality.co.uk/site/ethnic-minority-cancer-awareness-month-2015/


[1] Marlow LAV, Waller J, Wardle J. 2015. Barriers to cervical cancer screening among ethnic minority women: a qualitative study. J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. Accessed online: http://jfprhc.bmj.com/content/early/2015/01/12/jfprhc-2014-101082.full?rss=1

[2] YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1179 white women and 1177 BME women aged 20-65. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30 June – 7 July 2011.

[3] Rowlands G, Protheroe J, Winkley J, Richardson M, Seed PT, Rudd R. 2015. A mismatch between population health literacy and the complexity of health information: an observational study. Br J Gen Pract 65(635).