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J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 38:214-220 doi:10.1136/jfprhc-2012-100378
  • Articles

Barriers to cervical screening in women who have experienced sexual abuse: an exploratory study

Open Access
  1. Anne Szarewski4
  1. 1Research Nurse Consultant, Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, Bart's and the London School of Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Senior Research Associate, Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London, UK
  3. 3Research Nurse, Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, Bart's and the London School of Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4Clinical Senior Lecturer, Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, Bart's and the London School of Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anne Szarewski, Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, Bart's and the London School of Medicine, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6BQ, UK; a.szarewski{at}qmul.ac.uk
  • Received 29 April 2012
  • Accepted 27 July 2012

Abstract

Objectives To explore self-reported cervical screening history and barriers to attendance among women who have been sexually abused and to identify measures to improve the experience of cervical screening for these women.

Methods Women visiting the website of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), who had been sexually abused, were invited to complete a survey of their views and experiences of cervical screening. This included closed questions on demographic characteristics and cervical screening attendance, open questions on barriers to screening, and the opportunity to submit suggestions to improve this experience for women who have been sexually abused. Content analysis was used to code responses to the open questions. Four women also participated in a discussion group.

Results Overall, 135 women completed the closed questions and 124 provided open-ended responses. 77.5% of responding women who were eligible for cervical screening in England had ever attended, 48.5% at least once in the previous 5 years, but 42.1% of women aged 25–49 within 3 years. A total of nine higher order themes were identified related to barriers to screening, one related to intention to attend screening and five related to suggestions to improve screening.

Conclusions This study supports the idea that women who have experienced sexual abuse are less likely to attend for regular cervical screening, with under half screened in the last 5 years compared to the National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme figure of 78.6%. Suggestions to improve the experience for abused women focused on communication, safety, trust and sharing control. Further research in this area is warranted to ensure that this at-risk population is appropriately served by cervical screening.

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