Awareness of Cervical Cancer Among Female Students of Premier Colleges in Kolkata, India


In the absence of any nationwide cervical screening program, cancer of cervix remains a major public health problem for India. We here assessed knowledge levels of female college students about cervical cancer, its risk factors, the human papillomavirus (HPV) etiologic agent and Pap (Papanicolaou) smear testing for screening. We conducted a questionnaire survey of the students (N=630), aged 17 to 24 years, in Kolkata, India. Only 20% correctly identified cervix cancer as the most prevalent female cancer in India, while 43% were aware of the ages of occurrence. Though 41% thought sexual activity to be associated with cervical cancer, its risk factors, like, ‘smoking’, ‘having multiple sex partners’, ‘cervical infections’, ‘early onset of sexual intercourse’, ‘multiple parity’ were recognized by 29%, 3%, 4%, 13% and 15%, respectively. The terms ‘Pap test’ and HPV had been heard by 11% and 15 % of the students, respectively, and 75% of the students desired to have protective vaccination. Bivariate analysis revealed that educational stream, standard of the college and family size were significantly associated with knowledge levels. Additionally, multivariate regression analysis indicated city students were more knowledgeable than those from outside the city. It is imperative that women gather adequate knowledge on cervical cancer for the success of any program to control the disease. Wide and effective spreading of awareness about the disease among women must form an integral part of public health policy of government.