CERVIVA study highlights the influential role of GPs in women’s cervical screening behaviours

A new paper, published in Family Practice by CERVIVA researchers based at the National Cancer Registry, reports on the influential role of GPs in relation to women’s cervical screening behaviours.

In the study, which was funded by the Health Research Board, the research team conducted focus groups with women from across Ireland to investigate their knowledge, views and attitudes regarding cervical screening and human papilloma virus, the virus which causes cervical cancer.

The research team found that GPs can have both a positive and negative impact on women’s participation in screening. The attitude of the GP towards cervical screening had a major influence on a woman’s attendance for smears. Whether the GP viewed smears as important, and how this was communicated to the woman, emerged as both a barrier and motivator to having a smear test. The team also found that prompting by the GP (face-to-face during consultations or in the form of reminder letters) encouraged women to attend for smears. Having a high level of trust in the GP, and trust in what the GP told them in relation to cervical screening, motivated women to attend.

Recently, concerns about declining cervical screening uptake have been expressed in Ireland and internationally. The findings of the current study re-enforce the pivotal role of GPs in women’s cervical screening attendance. Ensuring GPs are engaged with the screening programme, and providing on-going support to them in relation to their cervical screening practices, is crucial to maximising screening attendance among women in Ireland.

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