Perceptions of cervical cancer care among Ethiopian women and their providers: a qualitative study

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Burrowes, Sahai
Holcombe, Sarah Jane
Leshargie, Cheru Tesema
Hernandez, Alexandra
Ho, Anthony
Galivan, Molly
Youb, Fatuma
Mahmoud, Eiman
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Cervical Cancer , Ethiopia , Quality Of Care , Patient Experience , Stigma
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Background: Cervical cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among Ethiopian women, killing an estimated 4700 women each year. As the government rolls out the country’s first national cancer control strategy, information on patient and provider experiences in receiving and providing cervical cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment is critical. Methods: This qualitative study aimed to assess the availability of cervical cancer care; explore care barriers and sources of delay; and describe women’s and providers’ perceptions and experiences of care. We analyzed data from 45 informants collected at 16 health centers, district hospitals and referral hospitals in East Gojjam Zone and a support center in Addis Ababa. Thirty providers and ten women receiving care were interviewed, and five women in treatment or post-treatment participated in a focus group discussion. Deductive and inductive codes were used to thematically analyze data. Results: Providers lacked equipment and space to screen and treat patients and only 16% had received in-service cervical cancer training. Consequently, few facilities provided screening or preventative treatment. Patients reported low perceptions of risk, high stigma, a lack of knowledge about cervical cancer, and delayed care initiation. All but one patient sought care only when she became symptomatic, and, pre-diagnosis, only half of the patients knew about cervical cancer. Even among those aware of cervical cancer, many assumed they were not at risk because they were not sexually active. Misdiagnosis was another common source of delay experienced by half of the patients. Once diagnosed, women faced multiple-month waits for referrals, and, once in treatment, broken equipment and shortages of hospital beds resulted in additional delays. Barriers to therapeutic treatment included a lack of housing and travel funds. Patient-provider communication of cancer diagnosis was often lacking. Conclusions: In-service provider training should be intensified and should include discussions of cervical cancer symptoms. Better distribution of screening and diagnostic supplies to lower-level facilities and better maintenance of treatment equipment at tertiary facilities are also a priority. Expanded cervical cancer health education should focus on stigma reduction and emphasize a broad, wide-spread risk of cervical cancer.
Burrowes, S., Holcombe, S. J., Leshargie, C. T., Hernandez, A., Ho, A., Galivan, M., Youb, F., & Mahmoud, E. (2022). Perceptions of cervical cancer care among Ethiopian women and their providers: a qualitative study. Reproductive health, 19(1), 2.
Reproductive Health
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