What influences cervical screening uptake in older women and how can screening programmes translate this knowledge into behaviour changing strategies? A CERVIVA-CervicalCheck co-production project

Most cervical cancers can be prevented by detecting early changes in the cervix which, if not found, could progress to cancer. This is done by testing cells from the cervix in a smear test. CervicalCheck, the Irish National Cervical Screening programme, started in 2008 and offers free tests to women aged 25-60. For the programme to be successful in preventing cervical cancers more than 80% of women need to be up-to-date with their smear tests. While this figure has almost been reached, there is a problem: older women (those aged 50 to 60) are less likely to have regular tests than younger women. This pattern has been seen since CervicalCheck started and is different to what happens in other countries. It means that older women are at higher risk of cancer than they need be and CervicalCheck is not as successful as it could be.

We don't know why older women in Ireland are less likely to be screened. If we understood this, then we could develop strategies to address the problem.

This project -a partnership between CervicalCheck and the CERVIVA research group - will identify what influences cervical screening participation among older women in Ireland. We will conduct detailed interviews with around 40 women (a mixture of older/younger and adequately/inadequately screened women) to find out how they make decisions about whether to have cervical screening and what influences this. We will use the results to develop a questionnaire to collect data from 2000 older women to find out the most important things that influence older women's screening decisions. We will combine the results with theories about how people behave, to work out how to solve the problem. The National Screening Service will translate what we find into effective actions to improve cervical screening uptake in older women.


Award Date
24 February 2017
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor John O'Leary
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Applied Partnership Awards