Delayed and cancelled cervical screening appointments have left many women feeling worried, according to new research.
The research, conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, found that 39 per cent of women were worried about cancelled and delayed appointments. Yet, while 40 per cent would feel relieved to be able to go, as screening programmes across the UK are looking to recover, 12 per cent say they feel less likely to attend than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar numbers (13 per cent) think it is best to put off going for cervical screening at the moment.
With low cervical screening attendance already a concern before COVID-19, Jo’s Trust is using Cervical Screening Awareness Week to address new challenges to attendance as a result of the virus.
It is estimated that over two million people across the UK have been unable to access screening or cancer treatment over the past few months as the NHS has responded to COVID-19. Cervical screening in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has largely paused, while in England cervical screening services have been affected in some areas.
The charity’s Helpline has seen a growing level of anxiety and confusion around cervical screening since the pandemic began.
11 per cent had fears around safey; 15 per cent did not want to put ‘additional strain’ on the NHS; and 13 per cent said they were shielding or protecting others. A quarter of women are worried about their risk of coronavirus if they go.
Five million women are invited for cervical screening each year in the UK, with around 3.5 million taking up their invite. 60 per cent of those surveyed said coronavirus has not changed how they feel about cervical screening. However the charity has found a clear need for information, with 36 per cent of women saying they are unsure of what to expect if they go to a GP practice for a cervical screening now.
Speaking about the research, Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said, “Cervical screening isn’t always the easiest of test and we must try to prevent coronavirus making it even harder.”
“We want every woman to have the information and support they need to feel able to make decisions about their health.”
“This includes understanding the measures GP practices and sexual health services are putting in to keep patients safe.”
“For those working in primary care, being mindful of new concerns as a result of coronavirus is important to ensure the right support can be given to women due cervical screening.”
The charity is launching new FAQs to address common questions such as “What do you do if your test has been cancelled? Is a delay dangerous? Is it safe to attend? Is the test still the same? What happens when you go to a GP now?” It aims to reassure women that, while visiting the GP might look a bit different, cervical screening itself remains the same. It is also calling for innovation such as self-sampling to be further explored to help restore cervical screening across the UK and reduce the pressure on primary care.
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