Background: Cervical cancer, the most common cancer among women in Tanzania is strongly linked to Human Papilloma Virus. Precancerous lesions can be detected by Papanicolau smear screening. Nurses, being the largest group of health workers, have an important role in promotion of cervical cancer screening.
Objectives: To determine nurses' awareness of cervical cancer and their own screening practices at a hospital in Tanzania.
Methods: A descriptive cross sectional study using questionnaires on 137 nurses. Data analysis was made by descriptive statistics and chi square tests.
Results: Less than half of the nurses had adequate knowledge regarding cervical cancer. There was a significant association between knowledge levels of causes of cervical cancer and transmission of HPV and age. Knowledge was more adequate among the young nurses (p = 0.027) and knowledge differed significantly between cadres. Registered nurses had more adequate knowledge than enrolled nurses (p = 0.006). The majority did not know screening intervals and a few were aware of HPV vaccine. Most nurses (84.6%) had never had a Pap smear examination.
Conclusion: These results reflect a need for continuing medical education, creation of cervical cancer prevention policies and strategies at all levels of the health sector.
Keywords: Cervical cancer; HPV; knowledge; nurses.