A new resource about cervical screening (smear tests) has been launched to try and address the poor uptake of screening for women with learning disabilities.
‘The Smear Test Film’ is a health education film resource for women eligible for cervical screening who have mild to moderate learning disabilities. It has been made by Public Health England in association with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
Every day in the UK, 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 3 die of the disease. Cervical cancer is largely preventable thanks to the NHS screening programme and HPV vaccination programme. Across England 77.8% of women attend screening, yet for women with learning disabilities uptake drops to between 13 to 25%.
About 2% of England’s population have a learning disability with the number of people with learning disabilities projected to rise to between 10 and 14% by 2020. Data from 2008 provided by Somerset PCT estimated that of the 698 women on the Somerset LD register 479 were eligible for cervical screening. Of these 479 women, only 18% had ever attended their cervical screening.
‘The Smear Test Film’ has been made in conjunction with women who have learning disabilities who helped script, illustrate and star in the film. It aims to help women make an informed decision about whether to take up their cervical screening invitation as well as equip carers with relevant information on cervical screening and its role in preventing cervical cancer.
“Cervical screening is a potentially life-saving test so it is vital that everyone is able to access the programme regardless of their background,” said Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. “We hope that with this new video resource we are able to reach this group of women, improve their understanding of cervical screening and encourage them to attend when invited.”
Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, managed by Public Health England, added: “We know that women with learning disabilities are much less likely to attend for cervical screening than the general population.
“There are many ways in which women with learning disabilities can be helped to make an informed choice about attending for their cervical screening test.
“This film was made by women with learning disabilities to understand some of the problems people can face when making the decision to go for screening, and how their carers and healthcare professionals can help these women to make their own informed choice.
“I hope that by watching this film many more women with learning disabilities will understand what the test is, what is involved and why it is so important to have regular cervical screening in the prevention of cervical cancer.”