Research Nugget

Cervical Cancer Knowledge and Screening Uptake: A call to increase health literacy among women

Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in women all over the world. In South Africa, cervical cancer accounts for 15.85% of all female cancers and 30.29% of female cancers suffered by African female, resulting in over 5 000 deaths annually. Notably, cervical cancer remains the most common cause of cancer death among African women in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Research by a team from the Durban University of Technology and funded by the NRF found that knowledge of cervical cancer and screening among marginalised women in Durban is inadequate. The study, which was conducted within the context of Women’s Health outreach initiative, revealed that when the women were educated about cervical cancer and screening, many of them took up the opportunity to do the Pap Smear screening. The study found that out of 70 women who took up the Pap Smear screening offered, 20 % had normal results; 51 % tested positive for infections, 11 % had tested positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is linked to cervical cancer; and 17 % of the women were found to have abnormal cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN1 and CIN 2).

According to the researchers, there is a great need for health education in order to increase knowledge about cervical cancer and its screening, and this needs to be supported by providing women with the opportunity of free screening. In addition, gender-specific community outreach initiatives held at centres which are easily accessible for the community, together with informative support in the home language of the participants, can assist to increase screening uptake, especially for the more marginalised and vulnerable populations in the country.

Read the full paper published in the journal Women’s Health  here.