Knowledge and attitudes about human papillomavirus, Pap smears, and cervical cancer among young women in Brazil: implications for health education and prevention

E D Moreira, B G Oliveira, F M Ferraz, S Costa, J O Costa Filho, G Karic
International Journal of Gynecological Cancer 2006, 16 (2): 599-603
The objective of the study was to assess knowledge and attitudes about human papillomavirus (HPV), cervical cancer, and Papanicolaou (Pap) smears among young women. A questionnaire was administered to 204 women aged 16-23 years, attending a public clinic. Data were gathered on sociodemographic characteristics, knowledge, and attitudes related to HPV. Overall, 92% of women reported current/previous sexual activity, 42% perceived themselves at high risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, 67% did not know that HPV can cause cervical cancer/warts, and only 10% acknowledged that HPV might lead to cervical cancer. In general, women had a poor knowledge on HPV diagnosis/treatment, condyloma signs, and Pap smear test. The main reasons for not having a Pap smear test done before were embarrassment (63%) and fear of pain (61%). Knowledge of HPV infection and cervical cancer was low in this urban young population. Our findings recommend for greater HPV education of the public and health care practitioners.

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