n Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery - Cervical cancer : South African women's knowledge, lifestyle risks and screening practices

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1682-5055


The purpose of the study was to survey knowledge, lifestyle risks and screening practices of women living in a resource-poor community in Tshwane, South Africa. Convenience sampling was used to select the sample (N=299) and self-reported data were collected using structured interviews.

A pre-tested self-developed structured interview schedule served as a data collection instrument. Knowledge of cervical cancer and its risks was very low as 95.0% (n=284) of the sample mentioned they had never heard about cervical cancer and only 3.0% (n=9) mentioned that a Pap smear could help to prevent cervical cancer. Screening uptake was low as only 18.1% (n=54) of the respondents indicated that they had had Pap smears done previously. Women's lifestyle risks in terms of the age of their sexual debuts, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and smoking were low, but were outweighed by the number of lifetime sexual partners and the absence of condom use. Lack of screening practices added to the risks, but the greatest risk was the lack of knowledge about cervical cancer as a disease, self-protection against this cancer and their inability to recognise the danger signs.
Women cannot prevent any disease, nor use available screening opportunities, if they have never heard about it. Having a national programme for the prevention of cervical cancer would serve no purpose without increasing women's knowledge about cervical cancer and the potential benefits of cervical screening, as well as the accessibility of such services.

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