Reaching women in the Peruvian Andes through cervical cancer screening campaigns: assessing attitudes of stakeholders and patients
Background: Peru is characterized by high cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates. The country also experiences significant gaps in quality cervical cancer screening coverage for the population.
Objective: This descriptive mixed methods study conducted in Cusco, Peru, aimed to assess the attitudes and perceptions of medical staff, health care workers, and patients toward a cervical cancer screening program that included both clinic-based and community outreach services conducted by a nongovernmental organization clinic (CerviCusco). The study also explored patient knowledge and attitudes around cervical cancer and about the human papillomavirus (HPV) to inform patient education efforts.
Methods: The study employed structured interviews with key informants (n=16) primarily from CerviCusco, which provides cervical cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment services, and surveys with a sample of patients (n=30) receiving services at the clinic and at screening campaigns.
Results: The majority of key informant medical staff participants felt that the general public had a very negative view of government health services. One theme running throughout the interviews was the perception that the general population lacked a culture of preventive health care and would wait until symptoms were severe before seeking treatment. Regarding services that were received by patients at CerviCusco, the participants responded that the prices were reasonable and more affordable than some private clinics. Patients attending the rural health campaigns liked that the services were free and of good quality.
Conclusion: CerviCusco has demonstrated its capacity to provide screening outreach campaigns to populations who had not previously had access to liquid-based cytology services. The finding that patients had generally low levels of knowledge about cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine prompted the development of culturally and linguistically appropriate educational and promotional materials to improve the educational component of the periodic campaigns conducted primarily in rural areas of Andean Peru.