Exploring the Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening through the Lens of Implementers and Beneficiaries of the National Screening Program: A Multi-Contextual Study

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

1 School of Public Health, Psychological Research Institute, UCLouvain University of Belgium, Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium.

2 Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka, India.

Abstract

Background: Cervical cancer is a major reason for morbidity and mortality in Low and Middle income countries. The National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) sets out broad national guideline to implement Cervical cancer screening. However, an implementation strategy for cervical cancer screening is not in place for districts. Although opportunistic screening takes place, implementation is hindered by psychological and physical barriers for women, as well as insufficient capacity on the part of implementers. This qualitative study aims to identify the specific barriers that prevent the uptake of cervical cancer screening. Methods: Women who could benefit from cervical cancer program were interviewed to explore the factors that influenced their uptake of the cervical screening offered. Key informant interviews were conducted with implementers of the NPCDCS and with public health staff of three States (Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Karnataka), to understand their perception of determinants of the utilization of screening services. Results: The general health concern among the participants was low, and routine check-ups were considered unimportant. Poor knowledge about cervical cancer, benefits of screening service availability, as well as a general sense of well-being, embarrassment or anxiety related to the screening procedure, fear of being judged for lack of modesty, and stigma were common barriers to screening uptake. In addition to a general unawareness of cervical cancer geographical inaccessibility of screening as a barrier to participate in cervical cancer screening, in certain regions. Conclusion: It is essential to increase the knowledge on cervical cancer and on the benefits of screening among Indian women. Providing information and cues to action by health workers and professionals can facilitate the decision to participate. Implementers need to be involved to ensure context specific implementation of the National programme to overcome these barriers.

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