Knowledge and Practices on Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Methods among Female Health Care Workers: A Sri Lankan Experience


Breast and cervical cancer are the most common causes of cancer mortality among women worldwide, butthey are largely preventable. There are limited data on knowledge and practices on screening methods of breastand cervical cancers among female health care workers in Sri Lanka, in spite of having an organized screeningprogramme islandwide. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 219 female health care workers includingpublic health midwives (68.9%) selected from 6 districts in Sri Lanka using convenient sampling methods. Aself-administered questionnaire was used as a pre-test in a capacity building training programme to collect thedata. The mean (SD) duration of work experience of the respondents was 12 years and 52.5% were aged over35 years. Most (76.7%) were married, and afamily history of cancer was reported by 24.2%. Over 98% knewabout self breast examination. Even though 84.1% practiced it, only 47.9% practiced it on a monthly basis.Clinical breast examination and mammography were known by 94.1% and 64.3% respectively. Only 19.2%had undergone a clinical braest examination within one year and 3.6% had ever undergone a mamography.Only 76.3% knew that a Pap smear detects precancerous stage of cervical cancer. Among 169 married workers,73.4% had never had a Pap smear and only 17.2% had got it done within the preceding 5 years. Among thereasons for not doing a pap smear within 5 years, 47.0% belived it as not nescessary, 17.3% due to fear/dislike,23.2% as not having symptoms, 3% had not known about it and 3% not known about availability of services.The study findings suggest that the knowledge and practices on breast and cervical cancer screening methodsamong female health care workers need to be improved. Considering the role that health care workers play incommunicating health behaviors to the general public, strengthening health education interventions for thisgroup of females is essential.