Cervical cancer prevention

January 25, 2012, 3:39 PM GMT+0

British women are shunning life-saving cervical scans, Cervical Cancer Prevention Week poll finds

Many British women over 50 are rejecting a life-saving test because they believe it is unnecessary and irrelevant, our online poll for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, has found. The survey of 2,397 British women aged 50-70 was conducted to help highlight national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week as part of the charity's drive to . Nearly one in three of the women questioned failed to realise that cervical screening was a necessary health test for all women.

  • In the poll of British women over 50 to 70, 31% did not consider the test necessary for all women
  • That figure more than doubled (67%) among those who had never attended screening
  • Single, separated and divorced women were more likely to have never been for screening compared to women who were married or in a relationship
  • Single women were four times more likely to feel that the invitation they received inviting them to a screening 'did not seem relevant' (4%) compared to women who were married or in a relationship (1%)
  • One in three (33%) women said they’d had a bad experience of screening in the past which had led them to delay or even fail to book their next screening

'Worrying downward trend'

The findings of the poll have led Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to call for urgent action as the latest official cervical screening coverage numbers show a worrying downward trend across the UK in this age group – falling below 80% for the first time in England in ten years in 2010 and dropping again in 2011.

Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information for those affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities, said: 'Cervical cancer is preventable and screening plays a vital part in that, saving around 5,000 lives every year in the UK but less than half of women in the survey (49%) thought their screening invite made it clear why the test is important. This, together with the absence of targeted information, seemed to be playing a pivotal role in whether women attended screening - 37% told us they would be more likely to book a screening appointment if they were given age-relevant information.'

Women unaware of main causes of cervical cancer

'Over two thirds (68%) were unaware that the main cause of cervical cancer is HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus). Over half of women (51%) in this age group told us they thought that cervical cancer was caused by having multiple sexual partners and almost one in five thought it was hereditary (18%). We clearly need to remind women that they can have one sexual partner and still be at risk from HPV. '

'There is a desperate need for us to find ways to improve women’s understanding of the causes [and symptoms] of Cervical Cancer and the action they can take to help reduce their risk. This could, quite simply, save their lives,' he said.

Survey details and full results coming soon

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week lasts from 22nd to 28th January 2012
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) National Helpline 0808 802 8000

Around three women in the UK die each day from cervical cancer, with someone being diagnosed every three 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 NHS Cervical Screening Programme saves 5,000 lives every year. Cervical cancer is predominantly caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can be caught as soon as you start having intimate relationships