Thank you to every woman who took part in the Better2Know Cervical Cancer Survey in the last few weeks.  We have now closed the survey, and analysed the results.

Here is what we found out:

Last Smear Test

Most respondents were on top of their cervical health.

  • Over half of the women in the survey had had a smear test in the last three years, and knew when their next test was
  • 15% had NEVER had a smear test
  • 3 out of 4 had their smear test at their GP Surgery, with the remainder going private

First Smear Test

Most women had had their first smear test at an earlier age than the current recommendations

  • 4 out of 5 were younger than the current age of 25 when they have their first smear test (the NHS will not routinely screen below the age of 25)
  • 7% were 35 and older

Risk Factors

In this question, we asked respondents to tick all the factors that they thought increased a woman’s risk of Cervical Cancer.

  • 85% of women correctly identified that an HPV infection would increase your risk of going on to develop cervical cancer
  • 85% of women said that a family history of cancer can contribute to cervical cancer.  There is no research to support this.  Cervical Cancer does seem to happen more to some families than others, but it is thought that this is due to lifestyle choices rather than genetic links.
  • Just over half (54%) said that multiple sexual partners was a risk (true as you are more likely to contract an HPV infection if you have more partners)
  • 46% said having a history of STIs was a risk factor (true)

If you have an HPV infection, then the following factors can mean that the infection is more likely to develop into Cervical Cancer (these are the lifestyle factors that often run in families):

  • Smoking (identified by 28%)
  • Alcohol (identified by 17%)
  • Poor Diet (identified by 15%)

HPV Testing

Awareness of HPV testing (as opposed to smear testing) has increased

  • Only 22% of women have had an HPV test (and nearly half of these were done privately)
  • 1 in 3 are now thinking about having an HPV test
  • None of the respondents had had the HPV vaccine

The Future of Testing

  • Nearly half of the women surveyed would consider going private to get a better picture of their cervical health
  • 1 in 5 think that the NHS should cut spend in other areas to improve cervical screening

The survey shows how seriously women take their cervical health, with most people having attended their GP surgery in the last three years for a smear test and knowing when their next one was due.

Interestingly, 4 out of 5 women had their first smear test below the age of 25 (the current NHS earliest age).  This shows that there is a demand for and an awareness of the importance of regular cervical screening, and that people are prepared to get private testing if they cannot get the test, and treatment or reassurance that they want.

Risk Factors for all cancers are a complex area.  There are many inter-connected reasons why some people are more likely to develop cancer than others.  Cervical Cancer is no exception.  While the majority of cervical cancers are HPV related (as 85% identified), not all HPV infections will go on to develop Cervical (or any other) type of cancer (HPV is found in around 5% of all cancers).  There are things that you can do to decrease the risk which include: not (or reduced) alcohol consumption, not smoking and having a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The difference between HPV tests and Smear tests can be confusing.  An HPV test looks for an HPV infection.  If an infection is not found, then there can be increased time before your next HPV test (some experts say up to five years), if an infection is found, then a Smear test will look for abnormal cells to see if a cancer is present.  It is best practice is to have an HPV test and a Smear Test at the same time. If both come back normal, then you can wait longer for your next combined test. The tests can be done on the same sample at the same time and is the best way to get a good picture of your cervical health which most women in our survey want with 2 out of 3 looking for increased screening and will go to a private clinic if the NHS will not fund this.

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