Barriers to early detection of cervical-uterine cancer in Mexico

J Womens Health. 1999 Apr;8(3):399-408. doi: 10.1089/jwh.1999.8.399.


In Mexico, a woman dies of cervical-uterine cancer every 2 hours, indicating a low impact by the national program for early detection of this cancer, principally because of problems related to quality and coverage. Through a qualitative study, we identified the principal barriers to use of the detection program from the point of view of actual and potential program users. Four focus groups were organized in standard conditions in Mexico City (urban, developed) and in the southern state of Oaxaca (rural, economically disadvantaged area). Participants were either women with at least one previous Papanicolaou (Pap) test or women who had never had the test. Barriers to Pap test use included (1) lack of knowledge about cervical-uterine cancer etiology, (2) not knowing that the Pap test exists, (3) the conception that cancer is an inevitably fatal disease, (4) problems in doctor/medical institution-patient relationships, (5) giving priority to unmet needs related to extreme poverty, (6) opposition by the male sexual partner, (7) rejection of the pelvic examination, (8) long waits for sample collection and receiving results, and (9) perceived high costs for care. To increase coverage of the early detection program for cervical-uterine cancer in Mexico, the needs, perceptions, and beliefs of women and their partners must be taken into account when developing policy and planning, given the role these factors play in the decision-making process that leads to their participation or nonparticipation in this program.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mexico
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Poverty
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Vaginal Smears