Cervical screening in women over fifty: challenges and opportunities ? a qualitative study

Alison Bravington, Hong Chen, Judith Dyson, Lesley Jones, Christopher Dalgliesh, Amee Bryan, Julietta Patnick, Una Macleod

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Cases in women over 50 are predicted to rise by 60% in the next two decades, yet this group are less likely to attend for screening than younger women. Aim To seek novel solutions to the challenges of cervical screening in women over fifty by examining practitioner and patient experiences. Design and setting Semi-structured interviews with 28 practitioners and 25 women over fifty, recruited via UK primary care networks in 2016-17, to explore experiences related to cervical screening. Methods Inductive thematic analysis was conducted to explore the data. Results Findings are presented under three key themes. Exploring the barriers examines the influences of sexuality and early experiences of screening on attendance, and how preventative health care becomes a low priority as women age. The role of relationships explores how peer talk shapes attitudes towards cervical screening, how teamwork between practitioners engenders investment in cervical screening, and how interactions between service-users and primary care over time can significantly affect intentions to screen. What constitutes good practice? describes practical and sensitive approaches to screening tailored to women over fifty. Conclusion Good practice involves attention to structural and practical challenges, and an understanding of the role of relationships in shaping screening intentions. Experienced practitioners adapt procedures to increase sensitivity, and balance time invested in problem-solving against the benefits of reaching practice targets for attendance. Building networks of expertise across multiple practices can increase practitioner skill in screening this age group.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 3 Aug 2022


    • cervical screening
    • older women
    • early detection of cancer
    • primary care
    • qualitative research


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