81% of women think cervical screening tests for cancer, rather than HPV

  • Feeling self-conscious about body image is the biggest concern for women attending their first cervical screening appointment 
  • Over a third of women have cancelled or delayed their first cervical screening appointment due to anxiety
  • LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor collaborates with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust in aid of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to help women overcome anxiety around cervical screening
  • Almost a fifth (17%) of young women have delayed their first cervical screening test due to feeling anxious about the procedure, according to a new study

LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor has collaborated with the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, in aid of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to help women overcome anxiety around cervical screening and educate them about HPV.

Cervical screening, HPV and me involved surveying 1,596 UK women to identify their understanding of cervical screening and HPV, GP Sameer Sanghvi providing answers to the most Googled questions on HPV and cervical screening, a breathwork exercise to help women combat anxiety before, during and after a cervical screening, and a first of its kind cervical screening plan.

Notably, although cervical screening in the UK doesn’t start until the age of 25, the study reveals one in three (33%) women under the age of 24 are already anxious about their first cervical screening.

Feeling self-conscious about their body is the biggest concern around attending the test for those aged under 24 (20%), followed by not knowing what to expect at the screening appointment (18%).

The study found women under the age of 24 first begin to learn about cervical screenings from their mother or mother figure (18%).

Three in four (74%) believe their family members’ attitudes towards cervical screening tests influence their own beliefs on the test. Of this group, one in five (20%) state their family members have negative attitudes towards screening despite the test detecting HPV which could develop into cervical cancer.

When it comes to gaining more knowledge on cervical screening tests, for young women who are yet to have their first screening, sex education is revealed as the resource from which they gain the most knowledge (24%). This was followed by their mother or mother figure (23%) and then their friends (20%). 10% of women under 24 gain the most knowledge on cervical screenings from influencers.

This is in comparison to women from other demographics, the majority of whom said they gain the most knowledge from their cervical screening appointments (44%), followed by their own GPs (43%). Of course, this puts those who are yet to attend a screening at a disadvantage.

Almost half (47%) of women under the age 24 refer to the screening as a ‘smear test’, despite this being an old name. However, half of those surveyed believe the term carries negative sentiment and makes almost one in five (19%) less willing to take the test.

While women aged 16-24 who fall under the age of the cervical screening age bracket have the least knowledge on the test (30%), this age group are the most knowledgeable on HPV. This is likely to be thanks to the roll out of the vaccine across UK schools.

Despite this, one in four (25%) haven’t had the vaccine. And surprisingly, 16% admitted they didn’t know about the HPV vaccine – even though it’s offered nationally in schools to girls and boys aged 12- 13 years.

Dr Sameer Sanghvi, GP and Clinical Technology Lead at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, said about the findings: 

“While schools are encouraged to teach secondary school students about cervical screening and HPV as part of the Sex Education curriculum, we can conclude from our study that more needs to be done. Almost one in five (18%) women under the age of testing state they are most concerned about not knowing what to expect from a cervical screening.

“It’s important that women are educated from a young age on HPV and cervical screening. This will help women feel more confident about going for their screening, and hopefully ease any anxiety around the experience.

“What is also a cause for concern is that one in four young women surveyed haven’t had the vaccine. One in three of those who have not had the vaccine say being more educated on HPV would influence their decision to get the vaccine. This only highlights the fact that women need to be educated from a young age to gain understanding of the importance of cervical screenings and the risks that HPV carries.”

According to Samantha Dixon, Chief Executive at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: 

“Cervical screening can help stop cervical cancer before it starts, so it’s a really important test. There are many reasons going can be difficult, including fear, embarrassment or experience of trauma. It’s really important every woman has the information and support they need to take up their invite.”

Cervical screening, HPV and me is available to view here.

About Lisa Baker, Editor, Wellbeing News 4416 Articles
Editor Lisa Baker is passionate about the benefits of a holistic approach to healing. Lisa is a qualified Vibrational Therapist and has qualifications in Auricular Therapy, Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Seichem and is a Reiki Master.