Life-saving scheme to improve cancer screening among Muslim women

Published: 21 July 2023

A scheme to encourage Muslim women in Glasgow to take up cancer screening invitations is to expand with £337,485 from Cancer Research UK.

A scheme to encourage Muslim women in Glasgow to take up cancer screening invitations is to expand with £337,485 from Cancer Research UK.

Katie Robb

The three-year project, run jointly by the Universities of Glasgow and Sunderland, aims to reach women in Muslim communities with information to help them make informed choices.

Figures show low uptake for cancer screening among women in the Muslim community prompting the research team to launch a pilot in 2020 with the aim of increasing uptake of screening in Scotland.*

Previous small-scale research by the team found several reasons for this lower uptake which included not knowing about the screening, feeling shy or being worried about seeing a male doctor.*

After positive feedback from pilot participants, the organisers now hope to reach hundreds more women in Glasgow and the North East of England.

Cancer screening saves thousands of lives each year as it can detect cancers at an early stage when it is most treatable and, in some cases, even prevent cancers from developing in the first place.

Co-lead Professor Katie Robb, Professor of Behavioural Science and Health, at the School of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, said: “We ran a pilot scheme with a small number of women in 2020 which was well received by those who took part.

“This funding will allow us to expand the scheme so we can reach more women and share knowledge about early screening.

“Our aim is to empower women in Muslim communities with the knowledge they need as screening can be crucial to detecting cancer early when it is most treatable with the best chance of a successful outcome.”

The project, which was designed with Muslim women in Scotland, will run until December 2025 with the first phase providing workshops, the second administering surveys to assess changes in knowledge and attitudes towards screening, and the third to assess if uptake of screening opportunities has risen.

Workshops, both online and in-person, will include discussions on potential barriers to women taking up screening opportunities; health education sessions led by a healthcare practitioner; videos of Muslim women’s experiences of cancer or screening; and a religious perspective on cancer screening delivered by a female religious Muslim scholar, Alimah, Cerysh Sadiq.

Cerysh Sadiq, an Alimah and Research Assistant in the School of Medicine at the University of Sunderland, said: "Women can be uncertain as to how screening fits in with their faith, and it will be a great privilege to help guide women and assist with any religious concerns they may have about cervical, breast and bowel cancer screening."

There are three cancer screening programmes in Scotland. Bowel cancer screening is available for everyone aged 50-74 in Scotland every two years, breast screening for all women aged 50-70, and cervical screening for women aged 25-64.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK Chief Executive, said: “Tackling inequalities is absolutely crucial to ensuring everyone, regardless of where they live or their ethnic background, has the best chance against cancer.

“We know people from ethnic minorities may be less likely to respond to cancer screening invitations and hopefully this project will encourage more people to take up such opportunities, and to find out what barriers prevent them doing so.

“Removing these barriers could save lives by catching cancer early when treatment is most likely to be effective.”

The funding will also provide training for more women from Muslim communities to help deliver workshops.

It is hoped the results from the project will allow lessons learned to be transferred to other cancer screening - for example, male bowel screening - as well as to other ethnic minority groups.


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First published: 21 July 2023

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