Background: Cervical cancer is a leading cause of death among women in Ethiopia, affecting them at a time of their life when they are critical to social and economic stability. This study was mainly focused on assessing different socioeconomic and cultural related factors that make women vulnerable to cervical cancer and challenges women face in the process of diagnosis and treatment.
Methods: To achieve the objective of the study both qualitative and quantitative methods were utilized.198 participants were enrolled in a cross- sectional survey and 10 in-depth interviews were conducted with patients in Tikur Anbessa Hospital. A consecutive sampling method was used to select participants in the survey while purposive sampling was employed to select participants in the qualitative design.
Results: For the population covered in the study, poverty along with other socio-cultural practices such as early marriage, high parity and to certain extent polygamy were identified as factors that increased the vulnerability of women to cervical cancer. In addition, the study has uncovered several challenges faced by cervical cancer patients in the diagnosis and treatment process. Three types of challenges that include, health care based, psychological and economic were identified. System and practitioner delay were found as the main hurdles within the variable of health care related challenges. What's more, the psychological challenges identified included, fear of recurrence, negative social attitude and distress associated with the side effects from treatments such as fecal & urinary leakage. Furthermore, inability of bearing costs related to treatment and accommodation were cited as the main economic challenges.
Conclusion: The study showed various socio-economic and cultural vulnerabilities that expose women to cervical cancer and the challenges encountered by cervical cancer patients after their diagnosis. Addressing this issue largely lies in strengthening primary and secondary preventive mechanisms, providing public education about safer sex practices, family planning and eliminating cultural practices such as early marriage and polygamy in connection to cervical cancer. Furthermore, improving the diagnostic and treatment procedures and facilities is also a crucial component that needs due emphasis in the fight against cervical cancer.