Original Research

Adherence barriers and facilitators for cervical screening amongst currently disadvantaged women in the greater Cape Town region of South Africa

Chantelle De Abreu, Hannah Horsfall, Despina Learmonth
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 5, No 1 | a492 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v5i1.492 | © 2013 Chantelle De Abreu, Hannah Horsfall, Despina Learmonth | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 October 2012 | Published: 05 July 2013

About the author(s)

Chantelle De Abreu, Psychology Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Hannah Horsfall, Psychology Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Despina Learmonth, Psychology Department, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Background: In South Africa cervical cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer amongst women, and black African women have the highest risk of developing this disease. Unfortunately, the majority of South African women do not adhere to recommended regular cervical screening.

Objectives: The purpose of this research was to explore the perceptions, experiences and knowledge regarding cervical screening of disadvantaged women in two informal settlements in South African urban areas.

Method: The Health Belief Model (HBM) provided a theoretical framework for this study. Four focus groups (n = 21) were conducted, using questions derived from the HBM, and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The ages of the women who participated ranged from 21 to 53 years.

Results: The analysis revealed lack of knowledge about screening as a key structural barrier to treatment. Other structural barriers were: time, age at which free screening is available, and health education. The psychosocial barriers that were identified included: fear of the screening procedure and of the stigmatisation in attending screening. The presence of physical symptoms, the perception that screening provides symptom relief, HIV status, and the desire to know one’s physical health status were identified as facilitators of cervical screening adherence.

Conclusion: This knowledge has the potential to inform healthcare policy and services in South Africa. As globalisation persists and individuals continue to immigrate or seek refugee status in foreign countries, increased understanding and knowledge is required for successful acculturation and integration. Developed countries may therefore also benefit from research findings in developing countries.


cervical screening; Pap-smear; screening adherence; cervical cancer; Health Belief Model; South Africa


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Crossref Citations

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