Emerging fears of cervical cancer in Northeast Thailand

Pimpawun Boonmongkon, Jen Pylypa, Mark Nichter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The rate of cervical cancer in Thailand is 28 cases per 100,000 women. However, interviews with women in Northeast Thailand revealed a perceived rate of nine to 16 cases per 100 women. What are the causes and consequences of this gross misperception of risk? When women experience a wide range of symptoms locally classified as mot luuk ('uterus') problems, they fear that these problems will 'turn into' cervical cancer, a perception inadvertently perpetuated by cervical cancer education and screening campaigns. Women with chronic or recurrent mot luuk problems thus experience an embodied sense of risk to cancer which results in anxiety and psychological suffering. They engage in self-treatment and consult staff at health stations as a means of managing symptoms. When symptoms do not subside, they seek health care at hospitals where they expect to be examined and immediately told whether or not they have cancer, in addition to being treated for symptoms. In many cases, these women are sent for Pap smears, which take 4-12 weeks to process, and little attention is given to treating their immediate symptoms. Consequently, symptoms persist and women continue to worry that their chronic symptoms will culminate in cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-380
Number of pages22
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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