Background: A population-based cervical cancer screening program using visual inspection with acetic acid was launched in Maldives in 2014. Our study aimed to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices of women in relation to risk factors of cervical cancer, early detection of the disease and its prevention. Materialsand
Methods: The questionnaire based survey was conducted among 20 to 50 year old women, systematically sampled to represent three regions of Maldives. Trained investigators interviewed a total of 2,845 women at home.
Results: The prevalence of the risk factors of cervical cancer like early age at marriage and childbirth, multiple marriages, multiple marriages of the husbands, and multiple pregnancies was high. More women knew about breast cancer than cervical cancer. Even among the small number of women who knew of cervical cancer, only 34.6% had the knowledge of at least one early symptom. Very few women knew that the cancer could be prevented by any test. Only 6.2% of the women reported having ever undergone a Pap smear. Many women had the misconception that cervical cancer was infectious. In Maldives the younger women have high literacy rate due to the policy of universal free education and those with higher levels of education had improved knowledge of cervical cancer and its risk factors. The prevalence of risk factors also reduced with improvedliteracy.
Conclusions: Awareness about risk factors and prevention of cervical cancer is limited among Maldivian women in spite of having high exposure to some of the risk factors. A universal literacy program in the country has helped to improve the knowledge of cervical cancer prevention and to reduce the exposure to various risk factors in the younger population.