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Removing barriers to cancer screening

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Published on 21 January 2021

Removing barriers to cancer screening
Removing barriers to cancer screening

While national cancer screening programmes play a leading role in saving lives and help to increase survival rates, figures show a significant low uptake among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women.

Researchers are now looking to address this imbalance through a new study, funded by the Scottish Government's Screening Inequalities Fund, assessing ways to increase the uptake of breast, bowel, and cervical cancer screening among BAME women, especially among Muslim populations, in Scotland.

Existing studies suggest barriers and facilitators to these common cancer screenings are complex, ranging from a lack of awareness, to emotional, practical, cultural and religious factors.

However, the research team, led by the University of Sunderland’s Dr Floor Christie-de Jong, are evaluating whether faith-based interventions could play a part in the promotion of screening. Often religion is seen as a barrier to stop women from going for screening, when it’s believed it could be used instead as a facilitator to encourage women to attend these vital check-ups.

Overall, it’s hoped the five-month study can contribute to earlier detection of cancer, increase uptake and knowledge of the cancer screening programmes and the benefits and risks afforded to individuals, as well as consideration of personalised informed choice.

Dr Christie-de Jong, a senior lecturer in Public Health, says the team will be working in partnership with the local Muslim community to ensure the intervention is culturally acceptable and “has potential to be effective in increasing uptake of screening, ultimately reducing morbidity and mortality rates of these diseases through early diagnosis for Muslim women in Scotland, and beyond”.

She adds: “In collaboration with Muslim women, this project aims to develop a culturally acceptable intervention, with faith-based messages which promotes participation in breast, bowel and cervical screening that could be utilised in the promotion of screening. The intervention could be developed further and tested for effectiveness on a larger scale if this initial project proves successful. The intervention could be shared with Muslim organisations across Scotland as well as with other relevant stakeholders such as the NHS, healthcare providers and councils.

“Faith-based interventions have real potential to promote health and healthcare seeking behaviour among multiple populations, and multiple religions.”

Findings from this project could be transferred to other cancer screening (male bowel screening), as well as to other ethnic minority groups with different religious beliefs. Effective dissemination strategies will be explored with key stakeholders. The research team will disseminate findings and the intervention through key local and national Muslim organisations.

They will also disseminate findings to local authorities, and important stakeholders such as the NHS Public Health Directorate so that the intervention can be shared both nationally and UK-wide.

Dr Katie Robb, a Reader at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, and a key collaborator on the project, adds: “We are delighted to be working with Dr Christie-de Jong on this important project to improve cancer screening uptake. There are significant inequalities in uptake of our cancer screening programmes and innovative approaches are urgently needed.”

The Project team includes:

Dr Floor Christie-de Jong (FC) Senior Lecturer in Public Health

University of Sunderland

Professor Jonathan Ling (JL) Professor in Public health University of Sunderland

Dr Katie Robb (KR) Reader (Institute of Health and Wellbeing) University of Glasgow

Mr John Mooney (JM) Locum Consultant in Public Health and Board Screening Coordinator for Adult Screening Programmes

NHS Highland

Dr Rana Amir (RA) Research Associate University of Sunderland

Dr Marie Kotzur (MK) Research Associate (Institute of Health and Wellbeing) University of Glasgow

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