At the start of European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week a YouGov poll for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust revealed that women over 50 were avoiding cervical screening tests because they believe they are “unnecessary and irrelevant”.
In the poll for women over 50 to 70, 31% did not consider the test necessary with that figure more than doubling (67%) amongst those who had never attended screening. 68% were unaware that the main cause of cervical cancer is the HPV virus. 51% thought cervical cancer was caused by having multiple sexual partners and 18% thought it to be hereditary.
Robert Music, director of Jo’s Trust warned too few women over 50 were going for smear tests – particularly those who were not in a relationship. He said ” Divorce rates amongst this group of women are rising dramatically as rates fall for all other ages and our survey showed women in the single, separated and divorced groups were most likely to say the screening invitation seemed irrelevant”.
He continued “These figures highlight why we are now seeing drop-offs in screening uptake in the over 50′s. There is a desperate need for us to find ways to improve women’s understanding of the causes of cervical cancer and the action they can take to help reduce their risk”.
Coronation Street actress Helen Worth is joining Jo’s Trust to call for urgent action. She said “The message that cervical cancer is preventable and cervical screening plays a huge part in that, saving around 5,000 lives in the UK every year, is clearly not getting through”.
She concluded “There are clearly women in this age group who don’t think they need screening anymore, that it’s not their problem”.