(HealthDay News) – Women who have experienced sexual abuse as children or young adults are less likely to attend regular cervical cancer screenings, according to research published online in the October issue of the Journal of Family Planning & Reproductive Health Care.

In an effort to identify barriers to cervical cancer screening and measures to help women and their physicians overcome these barriers, Louise Cadman, RN, of the Queen Mary University of London and the London School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a study involving 135 women who had been sexually abused as children and who had visited the Web site of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

The researchers found that 77.5% of eligible women had ever attended cervical screening; 48.5% had attended at least once in the previous five years; and 42.1% of those aged 25–49 had attended within three years. Nine higher order themes were identified as relating to barriers to screening. Of these, one related to intention to attend screening and five related to recommendations for improving screening.

“This study supports the idea that women who have experienced sexual abuse are less likely to attend for regular cervical screening, with under half screened in the last five years compared to the National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme figure of 78.6%. Suggestions to improve the experience for abused women focused on communication, safety, trust and sharing control,” the authors write. “Clinicians should ensure they have a good knowledge of the impact of sexual abuse and the sensitivity that is necessary to deal with its consequences.”

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