Minority ethnic women are less likely than white women to attend cervical cancer screenings, with four in 10 saying they would feel unsafe attending a doctor’s surgery as a result of the pandemic.
The findings in a study for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has revealed that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women are twice as likely (20%) to be strongly worried about contracting the virus at a cervical cancer screening than white women (9.4%). It also found that BAME women are a third more likely (39.6%) to feel unsafe visiting a doctor’s surgery at the moment than white women (27.2%).
In addition, the survey of almost 2,000 women (1,752 white ans 225 BAME) found that:
BAME women are more than twice (17.3%) as likely as white women (8.1%) to believe that delaying cervical cancer screening is the safest thing to do at the moment.
White women are twice as likely (51.1%) as BAME women (25.3%) to say that the virus has not affected how they would feel about attending a screening.
14.6% of white women strongly agree with needing more information about safety measures which would be put in place at a screening appointment, compared with 26.7% of BAME women.
BAME women are almost twice as likely (30.2%) as white women (17.2%) to say that knowing other people who have been screened and felt safe would make them more likely to have a smear test if it was due.
The report comes as 2.5m appointments for cancer screening, tests and treatments – including cervical cancer screening appointments – have been delayed because of the pandemic.
While the study highlights inequalities in reproductive healthcare during the pandemic, research has found that BAME women are also usually less likely to attend cervical cancer screening appointments.
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said it was worrying that women did not want to attend cervical cancer screening as a result of the pandemic. He said: “We don’t know when it will end and if we do not address these concerns now then health inequalities will continue to widen, which will simply lead to deaths which could have been avoided. While Covid-19 has brought in additional barriers, we cannot forget that the wide range of barriers that existed before the pandemic, including psychological, cultural, physical and literacy, have not gone away.
“It has been widely reported that people from ethnic minority backgrounds have potentially higher risk of Covid-19, so it is not surprising this is leading to anxiety or concern about attending cervical screening … Cervical screening is the best protection against cervical cancer, so we must focus on providing the information and support people need to feel confident and safe to attend.”
Dr Christine Ekechi, a medical adviser to the Eve Appeal which funds research into gynaecological cancers, said: “Whilst some women are considered high risk for Covid-19 including women from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups, it is also important to consider the possible risk of cervical cancer if women do not attend for their test.”
She added: “Cervical cancer is easily preventable with this simple and quick screening test. It is therefore important to reassure women of the tremendous efforts being made by healthcare professionals to ensure that they remain safe when accessing services during this time.”
Dr Raj Patel, deputy director of primary care for NHS England, said: “NHS services are safe and people need to come forward for essential care, checks and treatment … I would strongly advise anyone invited for a cervical smear test to attend because screening saves lives.”
Source: The Guardian