Author(s): Buga GA
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Abstract Population cervical screening programmes are necessary for meaningfully reducing cervical cancer morbidity and mortality. Because of the high incidence of cervical cancer in South Africa, the need for a national screening programme has become evident. The success of such a programme will depend on, among others, the level of cervical cancer awareness among the target population, and their willingness to utilise cytological services and to comply with treatment and follow up protocols. We conducted a survey among female university students, as an elite group of women, to determine their level of cervical cancer awareness and the prevalence of the major risk factors for cervical cancer among them, their rate of utilisation of existing Pap smear services, and their attitudes to Pap smears in general. The majority of respondents were young, single (93.0\%) and sexually active (86.9\%,) having initiated sexual activity at a mean age of 17.27 +/- 2.18 years. There was a high prevalence of the major risk factors for cervical cancer among the respondents, and these included initiation of coitus before 18 years (53.3\%), multiple sexual partners (73.6\%), male partner with other partners (37.7\%), and previous history of sexually transmitted diseases (42.2\%) and vulval warts (4.7\%). Their overall knowledge of cervical cancer was poor, although the majority of respondents were able to identify the major risk factors from a given list. This level of awareness of cervical cancer risk factors, however, did not translate into appreciation of personal risk of cervical cancer, safer sex practices or utilisation of Pap smear services. In conclusion, this elite group of women is at a high risk of cervical cancer and would benefit from cervical screening programmes. This would have to be coupled with measures to increase the level of awareness and knowledge of cervical cancer and its prevention.
This article was published in East Afr Med J
and referenced in Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research