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Ethn Health. 2002 May;7(2):103-14.

Rural and urban South African women's awareness of cancers of the breast and cervix.

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  • Department of Medically Applied Psychology, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of Natal & Midlands Hospital, South Africa. h993768@dohho.kzntl.gov.za



The investigation sought to establish the awareness of breast and cervical cancers among women of African descent, in both rural and urban areas, especially considering the oppression and deprivation experienced by this group.


Two groups of randomly selected women in a rural (n = 70) and urban (n = 70) area were interviewed using a structured questionnaire assessing their knowledge and attitudes regarding breast and cervical cancer and screening options.


The age range of the sample was 21-59 years with a mean of 35.23 years. Almost one-fifth of the women had not heard of these cancers, and almost half were unaware of the breast self-examination technique. Over one-third did not know about tests for breast cancer and more than half were unaware of tests for cervical cancer. Generally lower awareness levels were found in older and rural women who were also significantly more inclined to consult traditional healers (than doctors) about lumps in their breast or abnormal cervical bleeding.


The findings are of great concern and represent a significant challenge in post-apartheid South Africa. The need for vigorous health promotion programmes cannot be sufficiently emphasised, especially in view of the benefits of early detection and treatment. There also needs to be particular focus on rural women, considering the inadequate health care resources in their communities and the socio-economic hardships facing them. Women in these communities must be empowered with knowledge about their health and illness prevention options.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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