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Prev Med. 2004 Jul;39(1):91-8.

Perceived barriers and benefits to cervical cancer screening in Latin America.

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Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC 20037, USA.



This article describes the results of studies on the barriers and benefits of cervical cancer screening from the perspective of women, men, and health providers in five Latin American countries and compares them to other findings from the literature.


Five separate qualitative studies (focus groups and interviews) were conducted among low-income women in Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, El Salvador, and Peru regarding barriers and benefits of cervical cancer screening. Views from health providers and men were also included.


The main barriers identified by all participants are accessibility and availability of quality services, facilities that lack comfort and privacy, costs, and courtesy of providers, which interact with poor service delivery. Barriers that pertain to women's beliefs are anxiety borne by women awaiting test results, associated with negligence and fear of cancer (although not to a particular cancer or a particular procedure). Benefits of screening are peace of mind and being in control of their health, which then enable other life activities to continue unhindered.


Except for the accessibility and availability of quality services, these results are consistent with findings from other studies in developed and developing countries. Barriers could be lifted if health service delivery was enhanced, for instance, through quality improvement techniques that are available at low cost. Women's anxiety over test results still needs to be further assessed to devise risk communication strategies that take into account broader cultural frameworks. It is to be noted that such strategies should permeate the way health services are provided for cervical cancer prevention regardless of the specific test used. Vulnerability perceived by low-income women with respect to their capacity to cope with diseases and trust the health services and how this affects their perceptions of risk and their behaviors have not been studied as yet.

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