A study of women's knowledge regarding human papillomavirus infection, cervical cancer and human papillomavirus vaccines

Michelle Giles, Suzanne Garland
Australian & New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 2006, 46 (4): 311-5

AIMS: Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a common sexually transmitted viral infection and is associated with the development of cervical cancer. HPV vaccines are now undergoing phase 3 clinical trials in Australia. It is likely that an HPV vaccine will become licensed for use in the near future.

METHODS: Ninety women aged 18-30 years from three different groups (those attending a dysplasia clinic, a local university health service and participants currently involved in a phase 3 HPV vaccine trial) completed a questionnaire assessing their knowledge base regarding HPV infection, cervical cancer, Pap tests and HPV vaccines.

RESULTS: Respondents demonstrated good understanding of the Pap test and interpretation of an abnormal result. Most respondents (89%) had heard of HPV and attributed a number of different clinical symptoms to infection. For women who had not heard of an HPV vaccine, 79% of respondents stated that the most common resource they would use to obtain further information is their general practitioner.

DISCUSSION: Many women do not understand the risk factors for HPV infection, the clinical problems it may cause and the potential long-term complications of infection. Few women have heard of a HPV vaccine, but most women surveyed would approach their general practitioner for more information if one became available.

CONCLUSION: This study highlights the need for further education regarding HPV infection and the potential long-term complications such as cervical cancer. It also demonstrates that education of general practitioners regarding an HPV vaccine is essential, as this is the most likely resource women will use to obtain further information in the future.

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