oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - Knowledge of and attitude towards cervical cancer among female university students in South Africa : original research

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1015-8782
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1084



The objectives of this descriptive cross-sectional study were to assess the knowledge of the risk factors associated with, and detection methods of cervical cancer among female undergraduate students at Mangosuthu University of Technology. A total of 389 students were selected by stratified random sampling techniques. Participants' mean age was 20 years (SD=2). Results indicated that 51.2% students were currently involved in a sexual relationship, with 19.2% reporting two or more sexual partners in the past year. Less than half (42.9%) of the participants had heard of cervical cancer and of these, 26 (15.6%) did not know any risk factors for cervical cancer, while 96 (58.6%) of 164 participants who knew of risk factors, did not know that cervical cancer is preventable. One-hundred and sixty-three (41.9%) participants had heard about the Pap smear test. That the Pap smear test is used for detection or prevention of cervical cancer, was known to 62 (38%) of the respondents. Only 16 (9.8%) participants had had a Pap smear test. Among those who knew about the Pap smear test (n=136), 86 respondents did not have the test done mainly because of personal factors such as fear of the procedure, cultural or religious reasons, and were not ill (61.1%). Findings suggest low level of knowledge on cervical cancer and its risk factors and detection method among these female university students. The university should thus concentrate on developing policies on health education and promotion, particularly targeting preventable health conditions, eg. cervical cancer and strategies to prevent transmission of the human papillomavirus.

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