Send to

Choose Destination
PeerJ. 2017 Oct 25;5:e3871. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3871. eCollection 2017.

Knowledge and beliefs regarding cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination among urban and rural women in León, Nicaragua.

Author information

Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States of America.
Department of Health Policy and Management, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, United States of America.
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Disease, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, United States of America.



In Nicaragua, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death for women ages 15-44, yet access to the HPV vaccine is limited to those with financial resources to pay for it. Cervical cytology is provided free of charge in public clinics; however, only 10% of women receive Pap smears at the nationally recommended frequency. Previous studies have not investigated how beliefs regarding cervical cancer screening may differ for urban and rural populations in Nicaragua. Furthermore, no investigation has assessed Nicaraguan women's beliefs about a potential HPV immunization campaign. Given beliefs' influence on health behavior, we investigated the structural, sociocultural, and knowledge-based factors influencing women's beliefs regarding cervical cancer screening among urban and rural women in León, Nicaragua, and assessed acceptance of a potential HPV immunization program.


Our sequential explanatory mixed-methods study consisted of two phases: (1) a close-ended questionnaire, followed by (2) a qualitative, in-depth interview. Our quantitative sample contained 117 urban and 112 rural participants aged 18-49. We assessed beliefs regarding cervical cancer screening using a 22-item scale, with higher scores indicating screening-promoting beliefs in simple linear and multiple linear regressions. Twenty qualitative interviews, exploring the sociocultural dimensions of knowledge and attitudes indicated by our quantitative findings, were conducted with a sample of 13 urban and 7 rural women aged 19-46.


The multiple linear regression indicates that greater knowledge of Pap smears, HPV, and cervical cancer is significantly associated with screening-promoting beliefs after adjusting for other relevant factors. There was no significant difference in screening knowledge and beliefs for urban and rural women. Four recurrent themes representing determinants of knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes regarding cervical cancer screening arose from interviews and built on quantitative findings: (1) women's embarrassment due to the intimate nature of the Pap smear and male gender of exam provider discourages screening; (2) women believe Pap smears and cervical cancer are associated with sexual promiscuity, and this association stigmatizes women with the disease; (3) knowledge of cervical cancer prevention is limited to those who regularly attend health centers; and (4) women find screening inconvenient, believing understaffed clinics increase patient wait time, limit time patients spend with clinicians, and delay Pap results. A fifth theme indicates (5) participants' acceptance of a potential HPV immunization program.


Future interventions should focus on increasing access to information about cervical cancer prevention for women who do not regularly attend health centers. Furthermore, our results suggest that if funding were allocated to make the HPV vaccine accessible in Nicaragua, it would be well received.


Cervical cancer; HPV; Nicaragua; Pap smear; Urban vs. rural; Vaccination

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PeerJ, Inc. Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center