Knowledge of cervical cancer and screening among women in east-central England


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Professor D.K. Whynes, School of Economics, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK. Email:


Abstract.  Philips Z, Avis M, Whynes DK. Knowledge of cervical cancer and screening among women in east-central England. Int J Gynecol Cancer 2005;15:639–645.

This study assesses the extent and accuracy of women's knowledge of cervical cancer, risk factors, and the efficacy of the national screening program. Data were obtained from a questionnaire survey of randomly selected women eligible for screening, drawn from a population in east-central England. The majority of women in the sample overestimated the current incidence of cervical cancer, both absolutely and relative to other cancers. Perceiving incidence to be high was associated with reporting worries about the disease. With respect to the screening process, 78.3% believe that the smear abnormality rate is higher than it actually is, and only 7.6% correctly appreciate that the abnormality rate is highest at younger ages. With respect to performance, 16.3% believed the smear test to be completely accurate, and more than half overestimated the likely number of cancer cases prevented by screening. While certain cervical cancer risk factors were correctly assigned by the majority of women, undue emphasis was placed on genetic influence, while the risks posed by human papillomavirus infection were unfamiliar to almost half of the sample. We conclude that women typically possess only a partial picture of risk factors and overestimate both the incidence of cervical cancer and the efficacy of screening.