Women's Cervical Cancer Screening Intentions in Malawi

Tuesday, 23 July 2013: 11:05 AM

Valerie Janet Ehlers, PhD
Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa (Unisa), Pretoria, South Africa
Melanie Hami, PhD
Kamuzu College of Nursing, Maternal Child Health Department, University of Malawi, Kamuzu College of Nursing, Blantyre, Malawi
Dirk M. van der Wal, PhD
Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Learning Objective 1: understand why Malawian women do not use free cervical cancer screening tests

Learning Objective 2: recognise that unless women utilize screening services, 80% of Malawian women with cervical cancer will continue to be diagnosed too late for effective treatment

Purpose: The study aimed to identify factors influencing Malawian women's intentions to use free cervical cancer screening services in order to enhance early detection and treatment.  In Malawi, cervical cancer accounts for 28% of all female cancers and 80% of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed during the late inoperable phases.

Methods: Structured interviews were conducted with 378 women aged 42 and older about their intentions to use cervical screening services.

Results: Most interviewed women regarded cervical cancer to be a serious condition but did not regard themselves to be at risk of suffering from cervical cancer. Lack of knowledge about cervical cancer and cervical screening, embarrassment, stigma, lack of social support, financial costs, transport problems and traditional practices influenced these women's intentions to use cervical cancer screening services.

 Conclusion: More Malawian women could use free cervical cancer screening services if they were more knowledgeable, services were more accessible and efficient, and if health education efforts were directed at women aged 42 and older.