Perceptions and attitudes of women in Lüderitz, Namibia towards pap smear and cervical cancer prevention | BMC Women’s Health


Sociodemographic variables and perceptions of Pap smear participants.

A total of 136 volunteer women were selected to participate in the study. The majority (28.7%) of them fell into the 41-60 age group, with Christianity (97.8%) being the dominant religion (Table 1). Almost a third of the sample, n=48 (35.3%), had upper secondary education, while 29.4% and 28.7% had secondary education, respectively. Only one person reported having primary education (0.7%). Most women were single n=98 (72.1%) while n=34 (25%) were married. Of the 136 participants, 32 (23.5%) have no children, 32 (23.5%) have 1 child, 70 (51.5%) have 2 to 5 children, and 2 (1.4%) have more than 5 Children. Majority of participants 119 (87.5%) were employed, while 13 (9.6%) of the participants were unemployed.

Table 1 Socio-demographic variables of participants n=136

According to Table 2, all women between the ages of 36 and 60 have heard of cervical cancer and Pap smear. Although only 81% of women in the 31-35 age group said they had heard of cervical cancer, 84% said they had heard of Pap smear tests. This gives the picture that there are some women who are aware of the pap smear but are unaware of cervical cancer. Of 24 women aged “21-25”, n = 23 (96%) reported having heard of cervical cancer and Pap smear.

Table 2 Percentage of women in Lüderitz who heard about the Pap smear, by age group

Cervical cancer perception, risk factors and prevention methods

A large proportion of women reported having heard of cervical cancer (92.6%) and Pap smear test (93.4%) (Table 3). However, when asked what the pap smear test is used for, a variety of responses were selected. Most agreed that it was a screening for cervical cancer, n=111 (87.4%). Other answers were; Treatment for sexually transmitted diseases n=6 (4.7%), screening for infertility n=6 (4.7%), uterine cleaning n=9 (7.1%) and bladder cancer n=1 (0.8%) ( Table 4).

Table 3 Perceptions of cervical cancer, Pap smear, risk factors and prevention in women
Table 4 Pap smear screening acceptability among participants by age group n=63

When participants were asked to identify two factors that put them at greatest risk of developing cervical cancer. About a third gave only a single answer n=45 (35.7%). Those who gave sufficient answers (two answers) were 109 women (86.5%). Those who gave one of the two correct answers were 59 women (46.8%). Only n=10 (7.9%) participants correctly identified that a weakened immune system caused by HIV together with infection with HPV are the highest risk factors for developing cervical cancer (Table 4). The commonly reported risk factors were: having multiple sexual partners n=50 (39.7%), early sexual debut n=44 (34.9%), smoking n=22 (17.5%), and long-term oral contraceptive use n= 20 (15.9%). Other risk factors included alcohol consumption (0.8%), dirty toilets (1.6%), lack of regular check-ups (0.8%), microwave food (0.8%), soap (1.6%), spicy foods Food (0.8%), unprotected sex (0.8%), genetics (0.8%), high blood pressure (0.8%), lotions (0.8%), plastics (0.8%). Irregular menstruation (0.8%) has been reported as a risk factor when in fact it is a symptom of cervical cancer.

When asked if they thought they were at risk of developing cervical cancer. More than half said they were at risk of developing cervical cancer n=72 (52.9%), while n=54 (39.7%) did not think they were. Others reported not knowing if they were at risk n=10 (7.4%) (Table 3).

About three quarters of the sample n = 94 (74.6%) indicated regular screening as a preventive measure. Almost half of n=61 (48.4%) reported that cervical cancer can be prevented by avoiding multiple sex partners, avoiding early sex debut n=32 (25.4%), and quitting smoking n=33 (26 .2%). Only n = 21 (16.7%) reported HPV vaccination. A smaller proportion reported not washing the vagina with soap (1.6%) and using clean toilets (1.6%) to prevent cervical cancer (Table 4). Nobody could list all the preventive measures against cervical cancer.

A larger proportion indicated that cervical cancer is treatable, n=107 (84.9%), n=14 (11.1%) indicated no treatment, and n=5 (4.0%) knew not whether treatment was available (Table 3).

Table 4 shows that of the total participants enrolled in the study, n=136, less than half n=63 (46.3%) were screened, the majority of whom were women between the ages of 36 and 40 (71% ), followed by age group 41–60. Of the n = 24 women aged 21-25 years, only 6 (25%) went for screening.

According to Table 3 below, their main reasons for being screened were a doctor’s recommendation (29%), wanting to be informed about their health/well-being (24%) and knowing someone who had previously been screened (21%). . Others were studied during prenatal (2%) and postnatal (3%) procedures. Some women reported having worrisome symptoms that led them to go for screening (13%).

According to Table 5, most women went to screening more than twice n = 28 (46.3%). When asked where they got their information about the test from, the majority indicated that they were informed by their medical staff n=22 (36%), followed by relatives/friends n=11 (18%). Others indicated brochures n=10 (16%), posters n=6 (10%). Only n = 1 (2%) indicated school as a source of information.

Tab. 5 Motivation, frequency of screening in women n = 63

Attitudes of participating women towards cervical cancer and Pap smear tests

According to Table 6, the majority n=84 (67%) of respondents strongly agreed that if screening is free, they will screen. Again, the majority strongly agreed that cervical cancer is a serious condition n=95 (76%). And finally, a larger proportion strongly agreed that they would do screening in the near future. Conversely, n = 6 (5%) neither agreed nor disagreed with the question about future screening.

Table 6 Attitudes towards cervical cancer and early detection among participants with awareness of cervical cancer n = 125

Factors related to Pap smear taking

Sociodemographic variables related to screening utilization

From Table 7 above (using Pearson’s chi-square test), the existence of relationships between age and Pap smear screening, and between participants’ residence times and Pap smear screening can be observed.

Table 7 Relationship between categorical variables

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