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Minority ethnic women less likely to attend cervical screenings

6 July 2016

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Women from ethnic minority backgrounds are less aware of cervical cancer and prevention than their white counterparts, says the UK’s only cervical cancer charity.

A study from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that a third more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women (12%) compared to white women (8%) said they had never attended a cervical screening appointment.

Those who did not attend screening cited reasons like fear, embarrassment and shame or a lack of time, while others considered themselves to be low risk.

About 30% of Asian women did not know that a cervical screening is a test to check the cells from the cervix to find pre-cancerous abnormalities.

Meanwhile, further research from the British Medical Journal found that BAME women were less likely to recognise the terms “cervical screening” or “smear test”.

With health literacy such a contributing factor, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has translated a short film, Your Guide to Cervical Screening (smear test), in to eight languages: Arabic, Bengali (Standard and Sylheti), Mandarin, Hindi, Polish, Tamil and Urdu.

The charity says the film is designed for women to watch on their own or for it to be shown to groups in health care settings to increase knowledge and aid decision-making.

The film features real women from different ethnic backgrounds alongside animation to explain what to expect at the screening with translated voiceovers.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “It is estimated the cervical screening programme saves 5,000 UK lives every year so it’s vital that women from all backgrounds and ethnicities have the right information and support to access cervical screening.

“Our research has shown that culture, faith, religion and language barriers can all affect a woman’s ability to access health programmes.

“We hope this free film is used by healthcare professionals and community groups to reassure those who might be putting it off or to educate those who don’t understand the purpose of the test.”