Your health:

Why women skip smear tests

Laura Johnson
Young British women are skipping testing to prevent cervical cancer simply because they are too busy, according to a new study.

Older women, on the other hand, find the procedure embarrassing and fear it may be painful, acccording to Cancer Research UK analysts.

The findings come from detailed interviews conducted with some 46 women who did not attend cervical cancer screening.

All this was set out yesterday in a report in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

According to the researchers, women in their 20s and 30s found it too complicated to book a screening through their GP appointment system while arranging an appropriate time in their menstrual cycle - in short they were too busy to make the arrangements.

In the UK, some 730 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer before the age of 35 and another 1,200 after the age of 50. Screening rates have fallen below the government target of 80 per cent in the last ten years - in spite of celebrity cases such as Big Brother star Jade Goody, whose tragic death led to a brief surge in testing..

Researcher Dr Jo Waller, of University College London, says: “We’ve found that there are age differences in barriers to screening and evidence which suggests that addressing practical issues such as appointment systems and clinic times might boost attendance in young women, whereas there appears to be a need to educate the older groups of the importance of making an appointment."

And Sara Hiom, of Cancer Research UK, says: "Despite a surge in the number of women having a smear test immediately after the death of Jade Goody, we know a large number of women are not going for a smear test.

"Older women might find the test embarrassing but it can save their lives."

Exploring age differences in reasons for nonattendance for cervical screening: a qualitative study. J Waller et al. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology June 14 2011

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