What is it about?

Scientific evidence supports reducing cervical screening intervals from every three years to every five years for 25-49-year olds, yet, little is known about how screening recipients view such changes. In this paper, we examined UK women’s attitudes to extending screening intervals, and explored relationships between cervical cancer and HPV knowledge, risk perception, and acceptability of these changes. We found that women who perceive themselves to be at higher risk of cervical cancer, and those who currently attend as recommended and intend to attend their next screening on time, are less likely to accept extended screening intervals. Women also felt that increasing time between screening would increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Participants of cancer screening programmes often react negatively to changes to cancer screening policy intervals. For example, when Wales recently moved to 5-yearly cervical screening, an online petition to keep screening every 3 years quickly received over a million signatures. Understanding the reasons for unwillingness to accept a longer screening interval is imperative. This knowledge can inform public health campaigns and health care communications and help to tailor advice when implementing changes to cancer screening programmes. Our findings are important and suggest that women need clear and specific information about HPV timelines, their relationship with cancer risk, and the rationale for extending screening intervals in order to make informed judgements about the risk of extended screening intervals.


This study is important and timely, as countries prepare to make changes to the gap between routine cervical screens. The scientific evidence demonstrates the safety of a longer screening interval, but our findings show that women are reluctant to accept a longer screening interval. We recommend that the rationale for extending screening intervals should to be communicated with screening recipients ahead of any policy changes. Clear and specific information is required, which emphasizes that cervical screening is not a test for cancer but a test for the virus which causes cervical cancer, and the long interval from HPV infection to cervical cancer.

Dr Susanna Kola-Palmer
Department of Psychology, University of Huddersfield

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “A lot can happen in five years”: Women's attitudes to extending cervical screening intervals, European Journal of Cancer Care, July 2022, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/ecc.13655.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page