Huria: Journal of the Open University of Tanzania

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Social and Cultural Factors Affecting Treatment Seeking Behaviour of Patients with Cancer of the Cervix, at Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

T.K. Kabalimu, G.K. Mushi, R. Muindi


Some social and cultural factors influence the treatment seeking behavior among women with cervical cancer in that they hinder seeking early treatment. This study was set to investigate social and cultural factors associated with the unfavourable pattern of seeking treatment. A hospital based cross-sectional descriptive study was carried out at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) from 1st to 30th of October 2015, involving women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer and were undertaking treatment or were coming for follow up. A standardized questionnaire with both closed and open ended questions was used to get the information. Data were collected, managed and analyzed using SPSS version 20 computer programme. A total of 160 respondents participated and were interviewed. Early treatment seekers (cancer stages I and II) were only 10.6% while 89.4 % came very late when the disease was more advanced to higher stages.  The overall knowledge on cervical cancer was poor, only 15.1% had adequate knowledge on the disease (p < 0.03). Symptoms awareness was only 14.4% while 85.6% of respondents being unaware (p < 0.09). Social cultural factors associated with the problem included: attending to traditional healers 88.1%, being delayed by traditional healers on different pretexts, 81.9% (p < 0.541), stigma from society 13.1%, and poverty 78.8%i.e. being unable to cater for hospital investigations and treatments.  Perception that radiotherapy leads to early death was noted among 96.3% of respondents. Generally those with poor health education on cervical cancer comprised 89.5%. The study showed that the majority of women had suboptimal knowledge about cervical cancer and also symptoms specific to the disease. Beliefs that this kind of problem could not be treated in hospitals and the fact that radiotherapy kills were cemented by information obtained from traditional healers leading to delay in seeking appropriate treatment.

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