The role of knowledge, risk perceptions, and cues to action among Iranian women concerning cervical cancer and screening: a qualitative exploration

Rahim Taghizadeh Asl*, Liesbeth Van Osch, Nanne De Vries, Kazem Zendehdel, Mohsen Shams, Fatemeh Zarei, Hein De Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BackgroundIran has a low incidence but higher rate of death from cervical cancer (CC). The country is in the process of implementing an organized screening program including HPV testing and cytology. Studies show high dropout in continued testing among eligible women. This qualitative study aimed to explore women's awareness regarding CC and CC testing and the role of knowledge, perceived risk, and cues to action in this process.MethodThrough a qualitative study based on the Framework Method, we recruited 81 women aged 25-65 who participated in 15 focus group discussions (FGDs) and two in-depth interviews in Tehran. The interviewees were selected purposefully during January to May 2015 from households belonging to different socioeconomic classes until data saturation. The data were acquired through 11 open-ended questions and 32 related probe questions. All interviews were transcribed and independently analyzed by two researchers (Kappa and agreement testing respectively: 0.77, 97.11%).ResultsThe coded texts were categorized under three themes and 13 subthemes. The three thematic areas referred to knowledge, cues to action, and perceived risks regarding CC and screening. The results showed that women had limited and unspecified knowledge about CC and screening, compounded by misconceptions regarding infection and cancer prevention measures. Social and cultural barriers hindered proper communication between health system/providers and clients and within communities on subjects related to CC and screening. The perceived risk of getting CC was low because of overestimating the role of hereditary factors for CC, difficulty in differentiating between cancer and sexually transmitted infections (STI), and the absence of visible symptoms.ConclusionThe results indicate a strong need to invest more efforts to improve health education and communication in the current national health program to promote awareness of the need to screen for CC through, for example, establishing correct knowledge and risk perceptions among women. In addition, this intervention should address women's social environment in order to prevent misconceptions being communicated to women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1688
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020


  • Cervical cancer (CC)
  • Qualitative study
  • Perception
  • Awareness
  • Cues to action
  • I-change model


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