Uptake into cervical cancer screening programs in developing countries is poor. We explored prevailing beliefs and attitudes towards cervical cancer among two religious groups in Nigeria.
We conducted 4 focus group discussions (FGDs) among Muslim and Christian women. Discussions were conducted in 2 hospitals, one in the South West and the other in the North Central region of Nigeria. Data analysis was done using a combination of deductive and inductive processes using Atlas.ti version 7.5. Results were obtained using the query tools and Boolean operators to interrogate the codes.
Most participants in the FGDs had heard about cervical cancer except Muslim women in the South Western Nigeria focus group who had never heard about cervical cancer. Participants believed that wizardry, multiple sexual partners and inserting herbs into the vagina cause cervical cancer. Only one participant knew about the Human Papillomavirus. Among the Christian women, majority of respondents had heard about cervical cancer screening and believed that it could be used to prevent cervical cancer. Participants mentioned religious and cultural obligations of modesty, gender of healthcare providers, fear of disclosure of results, fear of nosocomial infections, lack of awareness, discrimination at hospitals and need for spousal approval as barriers to uptake of screening. These barriers varied by religion across the geographical regions.
Barriers to cervical cancer screening vary by religious affiliations. Interventions to increase cervical cancer awareness and screening uptake in multi-cultural and multi-religious communities need to take into consideration the varying cultural and religious beliefs in order to design and implement effective intervention programs.