Barriers to Cancer Screening Uptake in Women: A Qualitative Study from Tamil Nadu, India

Document Type : Research Articles


Department of Applied Psychology, Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development, Sriperumpudur, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India.


Background: The uptake for cancer screening has been consistently poor in India despite the efforts of nation-wide screening programs. Understanding the barriers and enablers among community women would aid in increasing the proportion of cancer screening uptake. Methods: Nineteen key informants including community women, service providers and a cancer survivor were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were recorded and transcribed by the interviewers. Manual descriptive thematic analysis was conducted using deductive approach. Codes were given and extracted into categories which were later grouped to form themes. Results: The mean age of participants was 38 years. Among the participants, 38.9% and 16.7% underwent breast and cervical cancer screening respectively. The psychosocial factors were the major barriers for screening uptake such as fear of screening procedure and fear of being diagnosed with cancer. The other factors include lack of awareness, cultural beliefs, in addition to financial difficulties and health care system-related factors. Change in government policies to conduct mandatory screening programs, incentivization and creating awareness were reported as enablers for increasing the screening uptake among women. Conclusion: Psychosocial factors, the major barriers for screening uptake in women have remained unchanged over the years. Increasing awareness campaigns, usage of decision-making aids and changes in government policies are crucial for improving the rate of uptake and successful implementation of national screening programs.


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