‘Inclusive’ smear test campaign that avoids the word ‘women’ and tells ‘anyone with a cervix’ to get screened risks being less effective, health chiefs are warned
- Scottish Government drive says ‘people’ should come forward for a smear test
- Campaigners have said the wording is confusing, appealed for plainer language
- A 2017 report found over 50 per cent of women did not know what a cervix was
- Drive launched after tests dropped 45 per cent in 2020, mainly due to Covid-19
An ‘inclusive’ smear test campaign that avoids using the word ‘woman’ and tells ‘anyone with a cervix’ to get screened risks being less effective, health chiefs have warned.
The Scottish Government drive says ‘people’ should get the tests – and ‘two people’ in the UK die from cervical cancer each day – but uses the word ‘woman’ only once.
Policy analyst MurrayBlackburnMackenzie said: ‘Plain language is vital in public health campaigns, the aim of which should be to maximise reach among the target group.
‘The Scottish Government should consider the potential impact of its decision not to refer consistently to “women” in publicity materials, particularly given evidence from [cancer charity] Jo’s Trust shows that almost half of women do not know what a cervix is.’
Campaigners have warned the wording is confusing and appealed for ‘plain language’ to be used. While critics have slammed the campaign for tiptoeing around the debate about trans rights.
A smear test campaign that urges ‘anyone with a cervix’ to get screened has sparked a row over its decision not to use the word ‘woman’ (stock image)
A 2017 report found more than 50 per cent of women could not identify the cervix as the neck of the womb.
According to Public Health Scotland, 174,299 smear tests were completed in 2020-21, down 45 per cent from 318,727 the previous year.
Conservative MSP Meghan Gallacher said: ‘It would be deeply concerning if the SNP’s reluctance to refer to women meant that fewer women came forward.’
The drive was launched after it emerged cervical screening tests dropped by 45 per cent last year. Tests were paused due to Covid-19.
A 2017 report found more than 50 per cent of women could not identify the cervix as the neck of the womb (stock image)
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was confident the campaign ‘to encourage women to attend for screening would reach those eligible and ultimately save more lives.
‘This campaign has been developed to help all those eligible for a smear test feel less anxious, and provide information and advice to reassure them and help make their appointment easier.’
Urging eligible people to come forward, Scottish Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: ‘A five-minute smear test could save your life. Even if you expect everything is fine, it is important not to ignore your invitation, as the test can help stop cervical cancer before it starts.’
WHAT IS A SMEAR TEST?
A smear test detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.
Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.
Most test results come back clear, however, one in 20 women show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix.
In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.
Cervical cancer most commonly affects sexually-active women aged between 30 and 45.
In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites women aged 25-to-49 for a smear every three years, those aged 50 to 64 every five years, and women over 65 if they have not been screened since 50 or have previously had abnormal results.
Women must be registered with a GP to be invited for a test.
In the US, tests start when women turn 21 and are carried out every three years until they reach 65.
Changes in cervical cells are often caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted during sex.