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Study identifies BME women's low cancer screening rates

Tuesday June 11th, 2019

The NHS needs to tailor its messages more effectively to encourage more women from black and minority backgrounds to have cancer screening, a scientific review has claimed.

The research by the University of Liverpool, UK, and presented to the UK Imaging and Oncology congress in Liverpool, is the first study to try to unpick the reasons for the reluctance of BME women to attend screening.

Lead researcher, Kerrie-Anne Calder said although religious, cultural and social worries are among the concerns raised by women from BME backgrounds, these are not the only reasons they found.

“This work shows that there are multiple reasons for BME women’s reluctance to participate in screening, including such diverse worries as embarrassment, stigma over testing, worry that cancer may damage their children’s marriage prospects, and believing cancer is a punishment from God,” she said.

“It’s important that we don’t generalise in approaching these women.”

Research found that 66.7% of South Asian women living in the UK accepted invitations for breast cancer screening, compared to 77.7% of non-Asian women, while only 51% of Muslim women go for breast cancer screening.

For cervical screening, 12% of BME women fail to attend appointments compared to 8% of white women.

Although there are several studies that reveal how individual issues contribute to the problem, the new study has pulled together previous research to highlight the barriers to screening in BME women.

They analysed 11 papers that are directly relevant to UK BME women and which specified several reasons for their reluctance to attend screening.

Some women said they could not go against God’s will, or viewed cancer as a punishment, while others felt that even the hint of cancer-related activity may damage their children’s marriage prospects. Some felt that cancer may be contagious.

Many women admitted they were reluctant to expose their private areas, were worried about family attitudes, about or were concerned after female genital mutilation. The papers also highlighted language barriers and inadequate targeting of health messages.

Fellow researcher Ms Janet Olowookere said they must not make the mistake of believing that the reasons for a lack of participation are common across all BME groups.

“We need to correlate the reasons with each particular group and begin to take steps to target each group to encourage screening,” she said.

“This may mean that health services need to reach out to religious leaders and to interact in different social settings. Health care professionals may also need additional training, especially in areas where there is a large BME population. If the NHS is to function as a service for all, it needs to tailor its messages more effectively.”

Tags: Cancer | NHS | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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