Background: Population-based screening coverage for breast and cervical cancer screening in the community is inadequately reported in India. This study assessed screening rates, awareness, and other factors affecting screening, among rural women aged 25-60 years in Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
Methods: Women aged 25-60 years, from five randomly selected villages of a rural block were included in this cross-sectional study in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. Households were selected by systematic random sampling, followed by simple random sampling of eligible women in the house. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to assess screening practices, awareness, and other factors related to cervical and breast cancer.
Results: Although 43.8% and 57.9% were aware of the availability of screening for cervical and breast cancer respectively, screening rates were only 23.4% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 18.4-28.4%) and 16.2% (95% CI: 11.9-20.5%), respectively. Adequate knowledge (score of ≥50%) on breast cancer was only 5.9%, with 27.2% for cervical cancer. Only 16.6% of women had ever attended any health education program on cancer. Exposure to health education (breast screening odds ratio [OR]: 6.89, 95% CI: 3.34-14.21; cervical screening OR: 6.92, 95% CI: 3.42-14.00); and adequate knowledge (breast OR: 4.69, 95% CI: 1.55-14.22; cervix OR: 3.01, 95% CI: 1.59-5.68) were independently associated with cancer screening.
Conclusion: Awareness and screening rates for breast and cervical cancer are low among rural women in Tamil Nadu, a south Indian state with comparatively good health indices, with health education being an important factor associated with screening practices.
Keywords: Awareness; breast cancer; cervical cancer; rural; screening coverage.