Attitudes to reducing cervical screening frequency among UK women: a qualitative analysis

Rose Rickford, Melanie Rogers, Abigail Halliday, Pearl Lamptey, Susanna Kola-Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: Cervical cancer remains a significant health threat amongst women globally despite most cervical cancers being preventable through screening and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination. With the introduction of HPV testing and vaccination, evidence suggests that the frequency of cervical screening for women can be reduced. However, there is limited evidence on women’s attitudes to possible changes to the cervical screening programme. This study explored attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of women in the United Kingdom (UK) regarding potential changes to the National Cervical Screening Programme.

Method: Forty-four women were interviewed between November 2018 and March 2019. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to identify key themes.

Results: Most participants were opposed to any reduction in cervical screening frequency. Reasons included perceptions that disease would develop undetected, disempowerment, increased anxiety, reduced motivation to attend, and inefficient use of health care resources. Women perceived that they were ill-informed about the reasons for the proposed change, and that access to evidence for the basis of proposed changes may persuade them to accept reduced screening frequency. Women believed that cervical screening is a test for cancer and that HPV vaccination does not provide reliable protection against cervical cancer. These beliefs suggest that women’s perception that they require more information about the basis for reduced screening frequency is correct.

Conclusion: Any changes to cervical screening frequency need to ensure public support and trust through a robust public health initiative clearly identifying the rationale for any changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-729
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Early online date3 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


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