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Poll reveals ‘dangerous’ misunderstandings about cervical cancer

Half of women think they’re not at risk if they are in a long-term relationship

Nearly half of women wrongly believe they are not at risk from the leading cause of cervical cancer if they are in a long-term relationship, a survey suggests.

The YouGov poll found that while almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), 48% think they are not at risk if they have been in a monogamous relationship for some time.

However, because the symptoms can remain dormant for many years and both men and women can get re-infected several times during their life, being in a long-term relationship does not remove the risk.

The survey also found that 17% of people – and more than a quarter of over-55s – believe sexual promiscuity is the main risk factor for cervical cancer, while around 7% think that if their partner receives an HPV diagnosis they have been unfaithful.

Vicki Bokor Ingram, cervical cancer lead at Roche Diagnostics UK & Ireland, a pharmaceutical company which commissioned the survey, told ITV News that the misunderstandings are dangerous and that the stigma around HPV needs to be tackled.

The poll also found 42% of women believe they do not need to be screened for cervical cancer if they have already been vaccinated. Although the NHS says the vaccine protects against around 70% of cervical cancers, the risk has not been eradicated.

Robert Music, chief executive of charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Increasing understanding about HPV, including what having the virus means, how it is contracted and how long it stays in the body, is essential.”

Almost half (44%) of women had either previously delayed or chosen not to book a cervical cancer screening appointment after receiving an invitation.