Published Papers - Abstract 12

Harris MA, Byles JE, Mishra G & Brown WJ. Screening for cervical cancer: Health care, isolation and social support. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 1998; 8(30): 167-172

Issue addressed: This research explores associations between participation in cervical cancer screening and health care use, geographical isolation and social support in middle-aged women. Method: Women aged 45 to 50 years, randomly selected from the Australian Health Insurance Commission Medicare database, were surveyed by mailed questionnaire. These women were participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (Women's Health Australia project). Results: Surveys were returned from 14,205 women (response rate 53.9 per cent). Of these women eligible for screening (n=10,795), 81.4 per cent (n=8791) were screened. Women with lower education and occupational status, non-English speaking women and Indigenous women were most likely to be unscreened (p < 0.001). Rural women were more likely to be overdue for screening. After controlling for these factors, the risk of being unscreened or overdue for screening was lower among women who made more visits to a general practitioner, those who had private health insurance and those who currently use oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (p < 0.001). Women who had no preference for a female provider and post-menopausal women were more likely to be unscreened (p < 0.001). Social support was a highly significant factor related to screening (p < 0.001). Conclusions: The promotion of stronger social networks may enhance participation in cervical cancer screening. Further exploration of the importance of social support as a facilitator of screening is warranted. So what?: Greater insight into the role of social support in cervical screening may open new avenues for promoting cervical screening among all women.