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Many women ‘unaware’ of cervical screening programme

Screening programmes need varied methods of publicity to improve uptake, say researchers.
Smear test

More than a quarter of women who have not had a smear test may not know about the cervical screening programme, according to a study.

The research, by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at University College London, used survey responses from more than 3,100 women who were eligible for screening, of whom 793 had not taken the test.

About half (51%) of those who had not had the test told the survey they intended to go in the future but were currently overdue. But, 28% reported that they were unaware of the screening programme.

Of the non-participants, 15% had decided not to attend and this was more likely among women aged between 55 and 64.

Study leader Jo Waller said: Campaigns using

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More than a quarter of women who have not had a smear test may not know about the cervical screening programme, according to a study.


Sending information in the post may not be the best way to communicate with women about screening, say researchers. Picture: Chris Balcombe

The research, by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at University College London, used survey responses from more than 3,100 women who were eligible for screening, of whom 793 had not taken the test.

About half (51%) of those who had not had the test told the survey they intended to go in the future but were currently overdue. But, 28% reported that they were unaware of the screening programme.

Of the non-participants, 15% had decided not to attend and this was more likely among women aged between 55 and 64.

Study leader Jo Waller said: ‘Campaigns using TV, radio, social media or face-to-face visits may be better ways of communicating with women about screening than relying on letters in the post, which is the current method.’


Marlow L et al (2017) Understanding the heterogeneity of cervical screening non-participants: data from a national sample of UK women, European Journal of Cancer. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2017.04.017

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