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Women in their sixties often skip offers of cancer screening

Most women in their sixties in England ignore at least one of the three types of cancer screening offered to them, a study shows

Most women in their sixties in England ignore at least one of the three types of cancer screening offered to them, a study shows

Picture shows a GP consultation. A study suggests that most women in their sixties in England ignore at least one of the three types of cancer screening offered to them.
Picture: Alamy

Only one third of women in their sixties in England take up all three NHS cancer screening services offered to them, research suggests.

The findings prompted calls for more research into why women may take up some but not all of the screening on offer.

Researchers from King's College London and Queen Mary University of London looked at the take-up of screening for three types of cancer of women in their sixties.

Screening take-up more frequent in wealthier areas

Women in this age group are invited for the last cervical screening before they exit the programme, with breast screening offered every three years and bowel screening every two years.

The study of 3,000 women found:

  • 35% took part in all three screening programmes
  • 37% took part in two programmes
  • 17% took part in one type of screening
  • 10% did not take part in any screening

Researchers also found general practices with a higher proportion of unemployed patients and a higher number of smokers had a lower rate of take-up of all three screening programmes.

Take-up was more frequent among practices in wealthier areas, with a higher proportion of women with caring duties, those with long-term health conditions and those with a high level of patient satisfaction with the practice itself.

To improve participation, the screening experience should be better

Senior author Stephen Duffy of Queen Mary University of London said the results showed there are inequalities in cancer screening participation.

‘Since most women had at least one form of screening, we know there isn’t an objection to screening as a whole,’ he says.

‘However, individuals find some screening procedures less acceptable than others, so the key to improving participation is making the screening experience better.’


Find out more

Concurrent participation in screening for cervical, breast, and bowel cancer in England (2019)


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