PURPOSE: In recognition of the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, we assessed the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of rural women in low-resourced countries toward common NCDs and the barriers they face in receiving NCD early detection services.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: The study was conducted in a rural block of India using the Rapid Assessment and Response Evaluation ethnographic assessment, which included in-depth interviews of key health officials; focus group discussions with women, men, teachers, and health workers from the block; and a knowledge, attitudes, and practices questionnaire survey. The home-based survey was conducted among 1,192 women selected from 50 villages of the block using a two-stage randomization process and stratified to 30- to 44-year and 45- to 60-year age-groups.
RESULTS: Our study revealed low awareness among women with regard to tobacco as a risk factor; hypertension, diabetes, and cancer as major health threats; and the importance of their early detection. Only 4.8% of women reported to have ever consumed tobacco, and many others consumed smokeless tobacco without knowing that the preparations contained tobacco. Only 27.3% and 11.5% of women had any knowledge about breast and cervical cancer, respectively, and only a few could describe at least one common symptom of either cancer. Self-reported diagnosis of hypertension and diabetes was significantly lower than the reported national prevalence. Only 0.9% and 1.3% of women reported having had a breast examination or gynecologic checkup, respectively, in the past 5 years. Low female empowerment and misconceptions were major barriers.
CONCLUSION: Barriers need to be addressed to improve uptake of NCD early detection services.