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Women 'too busy' for smear tests

Research has revealed that fewer women are going for cervical cancer tests because they are too busy or not worried about the disease.

Women aged 50 and above said they are not especially concerned about cancer, while those in their 20s and 30s said they do not have time for smear tests.

A considerable number of women said they are discouraged to go for cervical screening due to previous bad experiences, while some fail to get a convenient GP appointment or do not consider themselves to be at risk of developing the disease.

Participants in the survey were divided into two groups - women who decided not to go for cervical screening and those who failed to go to appointments.

The study added that younger women struggle to make appointments fit into their busy schedules while others find it difficult to get one to fit with their menstrual cycle.

The test itself is often talked about in negative terms, especially among older women, with some women describing feelings of embarrassment, violation or pain.

The authors added: "Apathy was a common theme, with women saying they tended to 'put off' making an appointment.

"Competing time demands were discussed, particularly by women who were working or looking after children.

"Screening was listed among a host of other things that needed to be done and often it dropped to the bottom of the list because it did not seem important or was difficult to organise."

Women in their 50s are less likely to mention difficulties in arranging an appointment or finding time, but are more likely to say they are unconcerned about cervical cancer, or think themselves at low risk.

Women in England are invited for cervical screening every three years from the age of 25 to 49 and every five years from the age of 50 to 64.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I have to agree with Barbara, it's all about making smear a positive experience! It's worked for me and meant being able to recall many women who have not attended for some time" - Jo Sansom, East Sussex

"I am not sure I would agree with this, I am a practice nurse in Salford, Manchester and where I work, there are well published Saturday morning clinics, evening clinics and dedicated disability clinics. Saturday morning clinics were cancelled due to lack of uptake. I would strongly agree that a woman's previous experience of smear tests plays a huge role in her agreement to a smear test. Our surgery is very flexible and will book late appointments, yet still our uptake is below the average" - Catherine, Manchester

"I am a practice nurse in a busy clinic and do most of the cervical smears. I run early and late appointments and remind women that their smears are due whenever I see them. Most women hate the thought of having a smear, and most women have had a bad experience in the past. I have a regime where I always ask women about this and make the smear with me a positive experience. The most valuable lesson I learned, and implemented into my own practice is to talk to the patient all through the procedure. This way she knows what I am doing, and she knows how long it will last, I reassure her, and remind her how to relax, rather than just saying RELAX! This has resulted in many women telling friends and family to come in and get their smear tests done" - Barbara, London

"I work as a practice nurse and we book appointments when it is convenient for the patient and so do not run set clinics. We have early morning and late evening appointments to encourage attendance. At my own GP surgery the practice nurse has a smear clinic on Thursday afternoons, with no late appointments, which I personally feel is unacceptable. I did manage to have my smear completed at a different time, but only because I complained. How many other women just don't bother due to the lack of flexibility and therefore put themselves at increased risk due to the existing systems in place?" - Claire, Newcastle

"I work as a practice nurse in a walk-in centre and as we are open from 8am to 8pm daily we get more women making appointments later in the evening to fit in with their work commitments. We tend to have more problems with our Eastern European women who we find difficult to get in because they have had a smear in their own country but do not understand that we do not have access to the results and that once they live in the UK they will be called for a cervical smear to get them into our programme" - V Lovewell, East Sussex

"My GP surgery have three practice nurses and none of them work on Wednesday or the other weekdays after 5pm. I am a practice nurse myself and Wednesday happens to be the only day available for me or after 5pm on the other days. I am overdue my smear for a year and it is very frustrating for me, so I can imagine what other patients feel. I think more walk-in clinics for smears should be available and the times must be convenient" - Tina Plange, Manchester

"Maybe dedicated well women clinics are the answer here, that could deal with all issues relating to women's health. It might make the procedure a bit more attractive if there was a dedicated team purely dealing with this area of health. Evening clinics need to be available. Rather than a GP appt which can be extremely difficult to get" - C Hughes, Cardiff

"I was very interested to read your article as I am undertaking my cervical screening course at the moment. I attend a local contraceptive services clinic weekly to take samples in order to complete my training. However, due to the fact that there are so few bookings, or that people either do not turn up or cancel I have had to ask for an extension to find sufficient people to screen. This has caused untold problems for me. Many weeks I have attended in my own time only to go home having done nothing. I am not sure what the answer is to this, but your article reinforced what I have been trying to tell my tutor - that screenings are limited. There is a period of 9 months in order to obtain 20 samples and I am still only up to 13" - Rachel, Kent