Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed among women in India and current estimates indicate low screening rates. To implement successful population-based screening programs, there is an urgent need to explore the social and cultural beliefs among women residing in underserved communities. An innovative, community-based participatory approach called photovoice was used with 14 women aged between 30–51 years, residing in rural and tribal villages around Mysore, Karnataka, India. Each participant was trained in photovoice techniques, provided with a digital camera, and asked to photo document their everyday realities that could influence their intentions to undergo cervical cancer screening. Over 6 months, participants took a total of 136 photos and participated in 42 individual interviews and two group discussions. These data helped identify specific beliefs prevalent in the target population and were organized according to the Integrated Behavior Model. Some women reported a lack of perceived susceptibility to cervical cancer whereas others mentioned the fatal nature of cancer as a disease and believed that no screening exam could prevent death if they were destined to get cancer. Husbands, mothers-in-law, and their peers in the community had an important influence on the social identity of women and influenced their intentions to participate in the screening exams. Seeking healthcare was associated with an economic burden, not only in terms of out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare services but also in missing daily labor wages or taking unpaid leave from work to seek healthcare when they were asymptomatic. Several action steps were proposed including: identifying community liaisons or champions, repeated community activities to raise awareness of cervical cancer, and educating men and other family members about women’s health issues. Study findings can conceptually help design and develop educational efforts for mobilizing women to undergo screening and inform future research to help understand disparities.
- cervical cancer
- cervical cancer screening
- community-based participatory research
- underserved communities
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health