Women’s Cervical Cancer Prevention in the UK

Introduction

The prevention of cervical cancer in adult females in the UK has been within the lens of researchers for decades. The modern research pays considerable attention to the disparity in access to prevention measures. It has been acknowledged that ethnicity and socio-economic status of women play the primary role in the way females use the prevention services and programs (Liu et al. 2012; Douglas et al. 2015). Age is also an important variable to be considered.

It is necessary to note that the UK prevention policies have a certain positive effect on women’s health, but disproportionate access towards various services undermines the efficiency of programs and strategies. Researchers employ qualitative and quantitative approaches to explore the issue and identify factors affecting the efficiency of the policies, as well as provide particular recommendations.

Prevalence of cervical cancer in the UK

Reportedly, the rate of cervical cancer incidence has decreased significantly since the 1980s. Thus, 8.5 per 100,000 UK females were diagnosed with this disorder in the late 2000s while the rate was 16 per 100,000 in the late 1980s (Labeit, Peinemann & Kedir 2013). The researchers stress that this trend is largely due to the successful implementation of prevention policies. It has been proved that over 90% of those who died of cervical cancer were never screened (Labeit, Peinemann & Kedir 2013). At the same time, the numbers are still alarming as over 250,000 UK women die of this chronic disease (Castañón et al. 2014).

The limited availability of screening and other preventing services is regarded as the major reason for the high mortality and prevalence of cervical cancer in UK females. Ethnicity, economic status, and age are seen as the central factors. Douglas et al. (2015) implemented a quantitative research that covered over 27,000 females. The researchers found that women of low-income communities were considerably less likely to attend the screening.

More so, Douglas et al. (2015) claim that even those who attend screening do not have full access to all the services within the program, which puts these females at a higher risk of the development of the disorder. The researchers also note that women aged 65 and older are less likely to attend screening than women between 45 and 65 years old (Douglas et al. 2015).

Shack et al. (2008) focused on the rate of incidence of cervical cancer in women in England. According to their quantitative study, women of the most deprived communities are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Castañón et al. (2014) state that the prevalence of cervical cancer in females in England and Wales is quite similar. The researchers note that females at the age of 65 and older, who have had regular screening, were considerably less likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than those who were not screened.

It is necessary to note that some researchers focus on the prevention programs and policies. Thus, Baird et al. (2016) state that the UK government has introduced the healthcare prevention program that has a focus on the increase in equity. It is stressed that the top priority is to ensure full accessibility of the existing prevention programs to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Baird et al. (2016) also provide certain recommendations that can improve the efficiency of the prevention programs.

The health impact of cervical cancer on the affected women

Clearly, the health impact of the disorder has also received the meticulous attention of researchers. Satyanarayana, Desai and Chandra (2009) address health issues and psychological effects of the disorder. The researchers note that the disorder can cause death if untreated. In the UK, the number of deaths is quite high, but it is much lower than the rates in developing countries. Some health issues involve painful symptoms and bleeding. The disorder can also have a detrimental effect on the fertility. Psychological effects are especially evident as women often suffer from depressive symptoms that negatively affect their overall physical state.

It is possible to state that the psychological and social outcomes of the disorder are discussed in detail. For instance, Fernandes-Taylor and Bloom (2010) note that there is a link between socioeconomic status and psychological wellbeing of people diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is emphasised that females diagnosed with this disorder often develop depressive symptoms that have a deteriorating effect on their health. The researchers note that people living in underprivileged communities are prone to the development of depressive symptoms due to the challenges they face every day (lack of resources, family issues, lack of opportunities).

Labeit, Peinemann and Kedir (2013) also claim that psychological effects are significant. Interestingly, women (especially having low income) feel anxiety and try to avoid screening. The psychological state of women from low-income communities (who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer) is characterised by anxiety and depression. Baird et al. (2016) state that the existing prevention policies involve various measures aimed at improving the patients’ psychological stress. These measures involve comprehensive support that can involve participation in discussions, events, lectures, charity and so on.

Marlow, Waller, and Wardle (2015) provide valuable insights into the psychological state of British females eligible for cervical cancer screening. The qualitative study unveils factors affecting women’s decision to participate in the prevention measures or to avoid any participation. Marlow, Waller, and Wardle (2015) state that many women are anxious about taking part in screening as they fear to be diagnosed with cancer. Remarkably, women of colour are more concerned with their reputation that the health outcomes as they often believe that cervical cancer is caused by shameful behaviour. These fears contribute to the prevalence of the disorder among this population as they do not participate in prevention measures that are highly effective.

The social impact on women diagnosed with cervical cancer

The social impact on females suffering from cervical cancer has also received considerable attention in the academic world. Satyanarayana, Desai, and Chandra (2009) claim that such women are often stigmatised as cancer is still seen as the deadliest disease that cannot be cured. The disease is often associated with significant losses of time and money. Females diagnosed with cervical cancer often have to change their lifestyles and even daily routines, which also causes psychological distress. Women living in low-income communities are especially vulnerable.

Marlow, Waller, and Wardle (2015) emphasise that women of colour are often unaware of the peculiarities of the disease, which creates a distorted view on the matter. Females pertaining to ethnic minorities tend to think that cervical cancer is associated with some abnormal sexual behaviours.

This poses a certain burden on women diagnosed with this disorder. More so, these women have to quit their jobs, which often means that their families will have significant (and sometimes unsolvable) financial issues. The need to spend time and money during various clinical procedures creates certain barriers to the females’ being and reintegration into their communities. The lack of job opportunities also poses certain barriers to effective reintegration into the community.

Summary

This chapter includes the review of the existing literature concerning cervical cancer and its prevention in the UK. It is clear that researchers tend to focus on psychological, social and health outcomes of the disorders. When it comes to the UK prevention policies, researchers note that they have a positive effect as the incidence rate has decreased since the launch of the policies. More so, it has been proved that the rate of incidents is higher in women who have not had regular screening. The review of the literature shows that there is a particular focus on ethnic minorities as this is the most vulnerable group.

It is necessary to add that there are certain gaps in the research. The UK policies aimed at preventing cervical cancer in adult women are quite diverse. The most studies focus on screening while paying little attention to other measures. The social aspects and reintegration issues should be considered with more precision. Therefore, it is essential to examine the most effective measures and strategies developed within the UK policy aimed at cervical cancer prevention.

This knowledge can be used to assess the effectiveness of the overall prevention policy. It will also be instrumental in the development of recommendations aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the existing prevention programs.

Reference List

Baird, R et al 2016, ‘An association of cancer physicians’ strategy for improving services and outcomes for cancer patients‘, ECancer Medical Science. Web.

Castañón, A, Landy, R, Cuzick, J & Sasieni, P 2014, ‘Cervical screening at age 50-64 years and the risk of cervical cancer at age 65 years and older: population-based case control study‘, PLOS Medicine, vol. 11, no. 1. Web.

Douglas, E, Wardle, J, Massat, NJ & Waller, J 2015, ‘Colposcopy attendance and deprivation: a retrospective analysis of 27,193 women in the NHS Cervical Screening Programme’, British Journal of Cancer, vol. 113, no. 1, pp. 119-122.

Fernandes-Taylor, S & Bloom, JR 2010, ‘Socioeconomic status and psycho-oncology’, in JC Holland et al (eds), Psycho-oncology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 47-57.

Labeit, A, Peinemann, F & Kedir, A 2013, ‘Cervical cancer screening service utilization in UK‘, Scientific Reports, vol. 3, no. 1. Web.

Marlow, LAV, Waller, J & Wardle, J 2015, ‘Barriers to cervical cancer screening among ethnic minority women: a qualitative study’, Journal of Family and Reproductive Health Care. Web.

Satyanarayana, VA, Desai, G & Chandra, PS 2009, ‘Psychosocial issues and reproductive health conditions: an interface’, in PS Chandra, H Herrman, JE Fisher, M Kastrup, U Niaz, M Rondon & Okasha (eds), Contemporary topics in women’s mental health: global perspectives in a changing society, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford, UK, pp. 227-259.

Shack, L, Jordan, C, Thompson, CS, Mak, V & Moller, H 2008, ‘Variation in incidence of breast, lung and cervical cancer and malignant melanoma of skin by socioeconomic group in England‘, BMC Cancer, vol. 8, no. 1. Web.