Attitudes Toward Self-Sampling for Cervical Cancer Screening among Primary Care Attendees Living on the US–Mexico Border

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Abstract

Background

Hispanic women living along the US border with Mexico have one of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in the nation, owing in part to lower rates of screening. The barriers to screening in this population include lack of access to care and fear of and embarrassment about the pelvic examination. Screening for oncogenic or high-risk human papillomavirus during cervical cytology has been added to screening recommendations. A novel method for human papillomavirus testing is self-sampling, in which women collect their own cervicovaginal samples. There is lack of information about the acceptability of self-sampling as an alternative to cytology for cervical cancer screening in women living along the US–Mexico border.

Methods

We conducted five focus groups with women between the ages of 30 and 65 who were primary care patients of clinics along the US–Mexico border. We used constructs from different health behavioral theories as a framework for the interview guide.

Results

A total of 21 women participated in the focus groups, 80% of whom were Hispanic; mean age was 53.4 (standard deviation 7.9). More than one-third (38%) of the participants had not undergone a Papanicolaou test in the last 3 years. Women identified the perceived benefits of self-sampling as ease, convenience, practicability, less embarrassment, and need for child care as compared with a Papanicolaou test. The main barrier to self-sampling was concern about not performing the test correctly.

Conclusions

In this qualitative study, we found positive attitudes toward self-sampling among women living along the US border with Mexico. Further research is needed to evaluate interventions that address women’s low levels of self-efficacy to perform the test and to evaluate the effectiveness of self-sampling in increasing cervical cancer screening rates.

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