Cervical cancer screening among South Asian women in Canada: the role of education and acculturation

Health Care Women Int. 2002 Feb;23(2):123-34. doi: 10.1080/073993302753429004.


Cervical cancer screening by Papanicolaou (Pap) smear lowers the incidence and provides early detection of cervical cancer and is a preventative health care measure that should be available on a regular basis to all women at risk. As the population of ethnic women increases, it is important to assess whether these women are aware of and are utilizing this health service. A self-administered questionnaire was completed by 124 South Asian women, aged 18 to 60 years. Sixty-two South Asian students were selected from a university setting and 62 Tamil women were selected from a community center for South Asian women. This study examined the knowledge and use of Pap smears in South Asian women in Canada, and whether their level of acculturation or formal education influenced whether they know about and receive Pap smears. Low level of knowledge about the Pap test and a low prevalence of Pap testing behaviour was significantly correlated (p < 0.001) with a low level of formal education, education taking place outside of Canada, and a low index of acculturation. South Asian students were significantly more acculturated than Tamil women (p < 0.001). In conclusion, there was a low level of knowledge and prevalence of cervical cancer screening among South Asian women. This study highlights the need for educational interventions in Canada directed to ethnic women especially from South Asia.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adult
  • Asia, Western / ethnology
  • Canada
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Sri Lanka / ethnology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Vaginal Smears
  • Women's Health*