Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable malignant tumours, and 90% of cases can be identified and treated in its early stages in a simple outpatient procedure. In spite of this, many new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. The present study examines the impact of knowledge, perceived risk, past experience and perceived barriers on attendance for a routine cervical smear test.
The study is based on a sample of over 1,000 women from the Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP) database who were sent a letter of invitation to attend for a smear test.
The results show that women have relatively poor levels of knowledge about cervical cancer and screening. Significant barriers to attendance included: the perception of having a cervical smear test as time consuming (P < 0.01), causing greater distress (P < 0.01) and being more afraid of the test (P < 0.05). Women who attended for a smear perceived themselves at greater risk of cervical cancer than non-attenders.
Barriers to attendance should be addressed in programmes that focus on the benefits outweighing the costs of attending for a cervical smear test.