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This study had three aims: to determine the prevalence of the risk-factors for contracting HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) and developing cervical cancer among young women; to establish if there are any links between the presence of these risk-factors, attendance for cervical screening and abnormal cervical screening results; and to ascertain the key barriers to the prevention of cervical cancer. The risk-factors were identified from literature as being sexually active at a young age, having increasing numbers of sexual partners for females and their partners, having had a sexually transmitted infection/disease (STI), smoking and long-term use of the oral contraceptive pill. The research was conducted through a quantitative, self-completion internet survey, completed by 242 women aged 18-24 attending a third-level institute and analysed using SPSS (the Statistical Package for Social Sciences). The findings showed that the prevalence of the sexual behaviour risk-factors tended to occur concurrently; being sexually active before age 17 was linked to increasing numbers of sexual partners and the occurrence of STIs. The findings also showed that approximately one-quarter of participants had attended for cervical screening, of which, over one-third reported abnormal results. Additionally, the findings demonstrated that the presence of the abovementioned sexual behaviour risk-factors tended to increase the likelihood of cervical screening attendance and the reception of an abnormal result. The key barriers to the prevention of cervical cancer were identified as a lack of knowledge about the primary and secondary prevention of cervical cancer: HPV and cervical screening respectively. The present study recommended that firstly, as the prevalence of the risk-factors appear to be increasing, cervical screening should be initiated from age 20 onwards, on the basis of the presence of the risk-factors, rather than being age-standardised at 25, and secondly, greater education and communication on the primary and secondary prevention of cervical cancer should be disseminated to adolescents and young people.
Cann, Jennifer: “Cervical Screening” A study on the prevalence of the risk-factors for developing cervical cancer among young women. Dublin, DIT, September 2008.