Understanding Barriers and Facilitators of Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening among Singapore Women: A Qualitative Approach

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Health Systems and Behavioral Sciences Domain, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University Singapore, Singapore.

2 National University Polyclinics, National University Health System, Singapore College of Family Physicians, Singapore.

3 Department of Surgery, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Objective: The uptake of breast and cervical cancer screening services among women in Singapore remains inadequate. Little is known about how gender norms influence women’s decision to undergo these screening services in a multi-ethnic Asian context. This research aimed to explore how gender-based qualitative factors influence women’s decision to screen. Methods: Qualitative data were collected using semi-structured interviews from 40 racially diverse women aged 25 and above who had visited polyclinics for their chronic disease management. Women were recruited using a purposive maximum variation sampling strategy to ensure representation of their views from the three major ethnic groups and based on inclusion criteria. Interviews were conducted either face-to-face or via telephone call. Interviews were audiotaped and lasted 30 minutes on average. Interviews were conducted until data saturation was reached. The data was transcribed and analysed thematically. Results: Gender norms and gender non-concordance with the healthcare professionals did not inhibit women from undergoing breast and cervical cancer screening services to a large extent. Women were empowered and had a central role in decision-making for screening services. Healthcare initiatives such as subsidies and mobile health applications facilitated the uptake of breast and cervical cancer screening services but can be improved further. Some of the barriers reported by Malay Muslims were not dissimilar to previous qualitative studies with women in this ethnic and religious group. Conclusion: Gender socialisation, empowerment, and healthcare initiatives did not inhibit our study participants’ decision to undergo breast and cervical cancer screening services. However, new initiatives and strengthening of the existing healthcare initiatives are needed to overcome any remnants of gender-related nuances and convert non-doers into doers.


Main Subjects