Case study

Cervical Screening in women aged 50 to 64


Young women are now protected from cervical cancer by a vaccine, which was introduced in the UK in 2008.

The vaccine only works if it is administered before a woman has a sexual relationship, and is not offered to older women. New research recently predicted that by 2036, the burden of the disease will shift into older age groups, with the number of cases of cervical cancer among women over fifty likely to rise by 62 per cent. Many women in this age group have stopped attending for cervical screening, and it is often assumed that this is because the test feels invasive and embarrassing. However, surveys demonstrate that women over fifty face a range of other issues which affect their experience of cervical screening. There has been no research to date focusing on an in-depth examination of experiences of cervical screening among women in their fifties and sixties, and the experiences of the practitioners who screen them. This is what the Cervical Screening Study set out to explore.

By 2036, the highest number of cervical cancer cases will be seen among women aged 50 to 59.


Lead researchers


Project funded by

Yorkshire Cancer Research logo

In-depth interviews were carried out with 25 women aged 50-64 about their experiences of cervical screening across their lifetime. Many of the women had complex stories to tell about recent problems with cervical screening, and nine of the women had made the decision to stop attending their screening appointments. We also carried out in-depth interviews with 28 practitioners (GPs and practice nurses), in which they talked about the challenges of providing sensitive screening experiences for women over fifty, and how to develop recommendations for good practice. We drew out key themes from all of the interviews and took these themes back to our interviewees for discussion in focus groups, to find out how we might help to change the way screening is approached with women over fifty. 

The research is being led by Dr. Alison Bravington, Research Fellow at Hull York Medical School.

The Impact

The women who were interviewed about their experiences explained how their feelings about screening had changed over the course of their lives. In a focus group, the project team worked with some of the interviewees to co-design an innovative leaflet which answers some of the very specific questions women in their fifties and sixties might have about cervical screening. The team also worked with health care professionals interviewed for the project to develop a cartoon animation as a training tool for practitioners, addressing the challenges of providing sensitive cervical screening for women over fifty.


Plans are underway to trial the animation as a training tool for practitioners, and to distribute the patient leaflet, initially via the GP practices in the North of England who took part in the project. The effects of the leaflet and animation can then be evaluated, examining effects on screening attendance among women over fifty, patient and practitioner experiences of the screening process, and the achievement of practice protocols recommended by the study findings.