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Singapore Med J. 2009 Jan;50(1):49-53.

Knowledge and awareness of cervical cancer and screening among Malaysian women who have never had a Pap smear: a qualitative study.

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  • 1Medical Education and Research Development Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Jalan Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Cervical cancer is one of the commonest cancers in women worldwide. Despite the existence of effective screening using Pap smear, the uptake of screening is poor. A qualitative study was undertaken using face-to-face in-depth interviews to investigate knowledge, attitudes and beliefs on cervical cancer screening of Malaysian women.


In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 Malaysian women aged 21-56 years and who have never had a Pap smear test, with the aim to explore their knowledge and awareness of cervical cancer and its screening.


A lack of knowledge on cervical cancer and the Pap smear test was found among the respondents. Many women did not have a clear understanding of the meaning of an abnormal cervical smear and the need for the early detection of cervical cancer. Many believe the purpose of the Pap smear test is to detect existing cervical cancer, leading to the belief that Pap smear screening is not required because the respondents had no symptoms. Despite considerable awareness of a link between cervical cancer and sexual activity, as well as the role of a sexually-transmitted infection, none of the respondents had heard of the human papillomavirus.


The findings highlight the importance of emphasising accurate information about cervical cancer and the purpose of Pap smear screening when designing interventions aimed at improving cervical cancer screening for Malaysian women.

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