Luton Clinical Commissioning Group

NHS Luton Clinical Commissioning Group


Barriers to participation to Cancer Screening in Luton

25 April 2018

News graphic

Embarrassment and fear of being diagnosed with cancer are preventing people in Luton from taking part in national cancer screening programmes.  Half of those invited for bowel screening do not take part, which means bowel cancer screening in Luton has the lowest uptake in the whole of the East of England. 

These surprising findings on cancer screening in Luton have been published in a report today, during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month following a survey commissioned by Luton Clinical Commissioning Group (LCCG), in partnership with Cancer Research UK and Luton’s Cancer Action Group, to highlight the barriers that are preventing local people from participating in national cancer screening programmes. 

In the UK there are three national cancer screening programmes for bowel, breast, and cervical and across Luton the uptake of cancer screening falls short of national targets by as much as 20%.

To understand the reasons why the people of Luton are reluctant to take part in cancer screenings a survey was carried out between May and November 2017. Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • A third of local residents were unaware of NHS cancer screening.

  • Breast Cancer Screening - 49%said the fear of being diagnosed as positive stopped them from participating in breast screening. 35% said that they didn’t know how to do the test.

  • Cervical Screening - 49% said embarrassment of doing the test was the most common reason for not having cervical screening. 42% said that the fear of having a positive diagnosis prevented them from have a cervical screening. 

  • Bowel Cancer Screening - 62% sited ‘not understanding how to do the test’ as the reason for not participating in bowl cancer screenings. 47% were too embarrassed and 47% were frightened they would have a positive diagnosis.

  • Almost half of male participants were unaware of bowel cancer screening.

  • And, participants from ethnic minority groups reported much lower awareness of cancer screening than participants of a white ethnicity.  

Dr Anitha Bolanthur, LCCG’s Clinical Lead for Cancer and local GP, said: “Getting screened and diagnosed for cancer early can save your life, and we want to encourage more men who are over 60 to be screened for Bowel cancer, and more women who are over 25 to have their cervical cancer screening.  It is also important for anyone who notices any changes in their bodies or displays any cancer symptoms to talk to their GP. We know it can be embarrassing and patients can feel afraid – but the sooner a diagnosis is made, the quicker treatment can start with better outcome.”

“In Luton a large number of people are being diagnosed with bowel cancer at later stages of cancer which dramatically reduces rates of survival. However 97% of bowel cancer is treatable and curable if it is caught early enough, which is why it is imperative that the people of Luton get screened”.

The research was carried out in partnership with the Luton CCG and Cancer Research UK’s Health Facilitator team who work with GP practices and other health professionals across the East of England to improve the early diagnosis of cancer.

Cancer treatment is more likely to be successful if cancer is diagnosed at an earlystage. Cancer Research UK’s Facilitators work to remove any barriers that might be stopping people from taking part in bowel and cervical cancer screening.

Their vital work is only made possible by local fundraising for Cancer Research UK andmoney raised through events such as Race for Life and community-based fundraising activities.

Jay Smith, one of the lead researchers on the report and Cancer Research UK’s Facilitator inLuton, said: “Bowel cancer screening aims to save lives by identifying early stage bowel cancer, even when there are no symptoms. If it’s discovered at the earliest stage, more than 9 out of 10 people survive bowel cancer for five or more years because more effective treatment options are available.

“Fewer people take part in bowel screening in Luton compared to the rest of the East. However, this research gives us a lot to build on. Fear of cancer,embarrassment, and not knowing how to do the test are clearly important factorsstopping people taking part. 

“Taking part isa personal choice but very few people said they would never take part in bowelcancer screening.  Instead participants suggested they needed morereminders and more information. These are things that the NHS, the local CancerResearch UK team and community leaders can look into and work together toprovide.”

In response tothe findings in the report LCCG are launching an awareness campaign invitingpeople to ‘High Five – Screening Saves Lives’. Look out for the campaign onsocial media and locally.

For moreinformation and to read the report visit: 



This project aimed to survey a section of the local population to better understand local attitudes to, and awareness of, cancer screening. More specifically it would seek to highlight some of the key barriers preventing local residents from participating. The survey attracted a total of 620 participants.

Some of the key findings include:

  • A third of local residents are not aware of cancer screening,and there is a disparity in awareness between different population groups. Menand individuals from minority ethnic groups are much less likely to be aware of cancer screening.

  • Of the three screening programmes there is lower awareness of bowel and cervical cancer screening than breast.

  • Understanding why screening is important, knowing someone who has or had cancer, and receiving a reminder letter were the most influential factors for people who had participated.

  • ‘Fear of cancer’ and ‘embarrassment of doing the test’ were the most commonly reported barriers to participation across all three programmes. Not understanding how to do the test was the most frequently reported barrier to bowel screening.

  • Ensuring patients know they can bring someone to accompanythem to and from the appointment, having more information and flexibility of appointments alongside varying formats of reminders were all factors that would make patients more likely to attend.

Notes to editors

       About Luton CCG
Luton Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible for planning, organising and buying NHS-funded healthcare for the 240,000 people who live in Luton. This includes hospital, community health and mental health services.

LCCG is run by GPs, nurses, hospital doctors and other clinicians – the people you see whenever you come into contact with the NHS. 28 GP practices in Luton aremembers of the CCG.

About Cancer Research UK


  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no funding from the UK government for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.


For further information about Cancer ResearchUK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.





Percentage uptake

Raw No. of people




East NHS region


















*persons,60-74, screened for bowel cancer within 6 months of invitation, 2016-2017

**persons,60-74 screened for bowel cancer within 6 months of invitation, 2016-2017

***persons,50-74 screened for bowel cancer within 6 months of invitation, 2016-2017

****persons,60-74 screened for bowel cancer within 6 months of invitation, 2016-2017

*****persons,60-74 (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 50-74 (Scotland), screened forbowel cancer within 6 months of invitation, 2016-2017




EastEngland/England source:











Forfurther information contact Nicola Lennox Senior Communications and EngagementOfficer Luton CCG Tel: 01582 532 074,



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