Factors influencing the impact of primary and secondary prevention strategies for cervical cancer among Queensland women

Christie, Leane Michelle (2013) Factors influencing the impact of primary and secondary prevention strategies for cervical cancer among Queensland women. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Since the introduction of the National Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Program (NHPVP) in 2007, few studies have assessed women's knowledge, beliefs and attitudes towards cervical screening and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in Australia. It is imperative to ascertain this, as substantial changes are anticipated to the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) through a process called 'the Renewal', to ensure any changes that are introduced will be acceptable and well understood by women.

The objectives of this study were to describe Queensland women's current knowledge of cervical cancer/screening and HPV, their beliefs and attitudes towards Pap smears and the HPV vaccine and seek their advice on effective methods for communicating changes to the NCSP in their communities. This research was a descriptive-exploratory study that incorporated a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods within the context of the Health Belief Model (HBM). A computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) survey of 1002 Queensland women was conducted in Phase 1 of the study. During Phase 2 of the study, 23 focus groups were conducted throughout Queensland to gather in-depth information about women's knowledge, awareness and acceptance about cervical cancer prevention strategies.

This study found high levels of awareness of HPV (over 60%) and the HPV vaccine (over 86%) amongst Queensland women. However, it also identified considerable uncertainty amongst participants about perceived susceptibility to cervical cancer, especially, the link between cervical cancer, HPV and sexual activity. Women also had limited understanding of the benefit of the Pap smear as a preventative strategy, with many women thinking the main purpose of the Pap smear was for the early detection of cancer. Despite high awareness of HPV, women participating in this study also had significant knowledge deficits about their susceptibility to HPV and the severity of HPV infection. Queensland women had high levels of awareness of the HPV vaccine, which was most commonly via the media. High acceptance of the HPV vaccine was found amongst participants although awareness of the full benefits of vaccination was not evident with little acknowledgement that the quadrivalent vaccine used in the NHPVP would also prevent genital warts.

Extensive barriers to having Pap smears, including physical and psychological discomfort, were identified and the most common barriers to vaccination were concerns about side effects and a lack of information upon which to make a decision about consent. Women described enablers for screening participation, such as reminder systems and practitioner characteristics, and expressed positive views towards self collected testing as an enabler, particularly for women who did not attend screening.

As this study was conducted with Queensland women it may therefore not be representative of women from other parts of Australia and as participants were more likely to report they were regular screeners than Queensland women overall, these results may not be representative of women least likely to participate in cervical screening. The use of self-reported cervical screening history may also have led to over-reporting of screening status and previous abnormalities by participants. This study reveals significant gaps in Queensland women's knowledge that require effective communication strategies to address. Recommendations from this study highlight the need for increased community education to raise awareness about primary and secondary cervical cancer prevention strategies, training of cervical screening providers in sensitive examination techniques, a reduction in costs associated with screening, the exploration of alternative service models and communication plans that incorporate methods women trust and recommend for disseminating information about changes to the NCSP.

This study is the first large study to explore women's perceptions of the Pap smear and barriers to screening, their knowledge about HPV and their attitudes towards the HPV vaccine in Queensland, since the introduction of the NHPVP. It highlights considerable uncertainty about many aspects of cervical cancer and primary and secondary prevention strategies available in Australia and identified many barriers to cervical screening and concerns about HPV vaccination. These knowledge gaps and barriers need to be taken into account and addressed within the context of anticipated changes to the NCSP to ensure benefits are maximised for women in future primary and secondary cervical cancer prevention strategies in the Australian context.

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ID Code: 64067
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Janda, Monika & McKenzie, Kirsten
Keywords: acceptance, attitudes, beliefs, cancer screening, cervical cancer, cervical screening, HBM, human papillomavirus/HPV, HPV vaccine, knowledge, papanicolaou smear/pap smear, prevention and control
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 05 Nov 2013 05:27
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2015 04:47

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