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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Apr;20(4):517-24. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2011.2765. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Women's knowledge and awareness of gynecologic cancer: a multisite qualitative study in the United States.

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  • 1Soltera Cancer Prevention and Control Research Center, Tucson, Arizona, USA.



U.S. women's awareness and knowledge of gynecologic cancer have not been well studied, with the exception of cervical cancer screening and risk factors.


Fifteen focus groups were conducted with women aged 40-60 years in Miami, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.


Most participants said they had heard of cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancers but were unfamiliar with vaginal and vulvar cancers. The misconception that the Pap test screens for multiple gynecologic cancers was prevalent and engendered a false sense of security in some women. An annual Pap screening interval was most familiar to participants; some mentioned a shorter screening interval for high-risk women; few mentioned an extended screening interval. A few participants thought the pelvic examination could detect a variety of conditions, including ovarian cancer. Some knew that the human papillomavirus (HPV) could cause cervical cancer, but no other risk factors for specific cancers were mentioned with any consistency. Although some recognized unexplained vaginal bleeding as a symptom of cervical cancer, participants generally were unfamiliar with gynecologic cancer symptoms. Participants reported learning about the discussion topics from a variety of sources, including the mass media.


Participants lacked critical knowledge needed to understand their gynecologic cancer risk and seek appropriate care. Pap tests and routine examinations offer ideal opportunities to educate women about the purpose of the Pap test as well as risk factors and symptoms associated with various gynecologic cancers. The reported influence of the mass media also supports the viability of multimedia educational strategies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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