"Cervical cancer screening: awareness is not enough". Understanding barriers to screening among women in West Cameroon-a qualitative study using focus groups

Reprod Health. 2021 Jul 9;18(1):147. doi: 10.1186/s12978-021-01186-9.

Abstract

Background: Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women in sub-Saharan countries, constituting a major public health concern. In Cameroon, cervical cancer ranks as the second most common type of cancer among women and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, mainly due to the lack of prevention.

Objectives: Our first and main objective was to understand the barriers affecting women's decision-making process regarding participation in a cervical cancer screening program in the Dschang district (West Cameroon). Second, we aimed to explore the acceptability and perception of a single-visit approach (screen and treat).

Methods: A qualitative study using focus groups (FGs) was conducted from February to March 2020. Female participants aged between 30 and 49 years and their male partners were invited to participate. Thematic analysis was used, and barriers were classified according to the three-delay model of Thaddeus and Maine.

Results: In total, six FGs with 43 participants (31 women and 12 men) were conducted. The most important barriers were lack of health literacy, low accessibility of the program (in respect to cost and distance), and disrespectful treatment by healthcare workers.

Conclusions: Our study identified three needs: (1) enhancing health literacy; (2) improving the delivery of cervical cancer screening in rural areas; and (3) providing training for healthcare providers and community healthcare workers to improve patient-provider-communication. Trial registration Ethical Cantonal Board of Geneva, Switzerland (CCER, N°2017-0110 and CER-amendment n°3) and Cameroonian National Ethics Committee for Human Health Research (N°2018/07/1083/CE/CNERSH/SP). NCT: 03757299.

Keywords: Barriers; Cervical cancer; Health literacy; Prevention; Sub-Saharan Africa.

Plain Language Summary

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women in sub-Saharan countries, constituting a major public health concern. In Cameroon, cervical cancer ranks as the second most common type of cancer among women and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, mainly due to the lack of prevention measures, such as cervical cancer screening.The main aim of the current study was to understand barriers that affect women’s decision-making processes regarding participation in a cervical cancer screening program in the Dschang district in West Cameroon.A qualitative study methodology using focus group discussions was conducted from February to March 2020. Female participants aged between 30 and 49 years and their male partners were invited to participate.In total, six discussion groups with 43 participants (31 women and 12 men) were conducted. The most important barriers were a lack of health literacy, limited access to the program because of cost and distance, and disrespectful treatment by healthcare workers.Our results identified three key areas for improvement: first, increasing health literacy; second, providing cervical cancer screening in rural areas; and third, training healthcare providers and community healthcare workers in better patient-provider-communication.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cameroon
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms* / ethnology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms* / prevention & control