Cancer screening behaviors and preferences among women in southern India
INTRODUCTION: In 2020, India's cancer cases were estimated at 1.32 million (International Agency for Research on Cancer et al., 2020) and were predicted to double by 2040 (Smith and Mallath, 2019).
METHODS: Starting in March 2019, we recruited 211 adult women in the Trivandrum area of India who had an outpatient office visit within the past 6 months to participate in a structured survey. We identified the study population from the Gokulam Medical College and four peripheral centers. Two trained interviewers collected survey information from the participants, including information on breast, oral, and cervical cancer screening eligibility, history, recommendations, and screening initiation. For analysis, we stratified the sample into two groups by age: a priority screening group, aged 30-65 (n = 132), and an overall group, containing the entire sample, aged 19-85 (n = 211).
RESULTS: 14.22% of respondents in the overall group and 14.39% in the priority screening group reported receiving a prior cancer screening. Among women who had not received cancer screening, the most common reasons were "no provider recommendation" (42.18%) and not knowing they needed to be screened (40.76%). Most women estimated their risk of developing cancer to be "very low" (64.93%), although the vast majority also believed early detection could improve cancer outcomes (84.83%). Among those who had not been screened for cancer, 61.61% overall and 65.15% in the priority screening group responded that they would undergo all eligible cancer screenings if recommended by their provider. The figure jumps to 79.62% in the overall group and 77.27% in the priority screening group if additional respondent-identified barriers to screening were addressed.
CONCLUSION: Provider recommendations can be used to mitigate the suboptimal screening uptake and late-stage diagnosis that exacerbate the mortality and economic burden due to cancer in India.
POLICY SUMMARY: This study finds that provider recommendations can shape the trajectory of outcomes by increasing cancer screening among women.