Factors influencing utilization of cervical cancer screening services in Embu hospital, Embu county, Kenya
Cervical cancer is a major global health problem, with nearly 528,000 new cases occurring each year worldwide. Each year an estimated 275,000 women die from the disease with about 86% of the cases occurring in developing countries, representing 13% of female cancers. Cervical cancer screening using Pap smear provides an appropriate way for early detection and prevention of cervical cancer if appropriately implemented. The purpose of this study was to establish the factors that influence utilization of cervical cancer screening services among women of reproductive age in Embu hospital, Embu County, Kenya. The objectives of the study were to establish how knowledge about cervical cancer, accessibility of screening services and the cost of these services influence women of reproductive age to utilize cervical cancer screening services in Embu Hospital. The study was cross-sectional descriptive survey conducted among women admitted in the gynecology ward at Embu hospital, in Embu County, Kenya. A crosssectional descriptive study design was chosen as it would adopt quantitative approach through self-administered questionnaires. The target population for the study was women of reproductive age in Embu County. The sample size comprised of 138 women admitted in gynecology ward and convenience sampling was used to select respondents. Only women who were admitted in the gynecology ward were included. Data was analyzed using excel and statistical package for social sciences (SPSS). Descriptive statistics specifically tables have been used to present the findings. This study revealed that awareness about cervical cancer was high (77%) among the women in Embu; however the knowledge of cervical cancer screening and cervical cancer risk factors were low (41% and 22%) respectively despite high literacy rates among the women. Barriers such as lack of information about cervical cancer screening procedures, not knowing where to go for cervical cancer screening and thinking that cervical cancer screening is painful were sighted as the reasons why women don’t do cervical cancer screening. Utilization of screening services was low at 36%. The study revealed that cervical cancer screening services were accessible and available (70%), and affordable (52%). Therefore accessibility or cost of the screening service would not be considered as a factor as to why women are not utilizing the cervical screening service. It is recommended that the Government of Kenya, through the ministry of health should acknowledge and recognize that cervical cancer is a major public health concern and accord its prevention and treatment priority in resource allocation. There is a critical need to intensify mass education on risk factors for the disease, to inform them of the role of HPV in HIV infected women and to promote both HIV screening and regular cervical cancer screening.