• cervical screening;
  • non-uptake;
  • non-compliance;
  • women’s knowledge

An assessment of women’s knowledge of cervical screening and cervical cancer was considered important as up to 92% of those dying from this form of cancer had never been tested. What were the reasons which determined their non-attendance? Issues to be addressed were reactions to invitation, women’s knowledge of screening, and the possible factors which they envisaged as being associated with cervical cancer. Other issues to be considered were practical problems associated with attendance, and preference for the sex and professional status of the health professionals involved; 187 women in a general practitioner practice in Lothian, Scotland were targeted by questionnaire. As with other studies in this field 50% of those contacted were ineligible for a variety of reasons. Seventy-two women completed the questionnaire, providing a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. Although the majority of women felt the invitation to attend screening was clear and easy to understand, there was a lack of knowledge with regard to both the screening itself and the possible causes of cervical cancer. The main ‘causes’ were seen as higher sexual activity among those aged under 37 and smoking and a virus by those over 37. The majority of women showed preference for a female professional to take the smear. Practical problems of time and venue were not considered insurmountable. The main reasons cited for non-compliance were the fear and dislike of the test itself.