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School-based human papillomavirus vaccination: An opportunity to increase knowledge about cervical cancer and improve uptake of screening

G Dreyer
FH van der Merwe
MH Botha
LC Snyman
D Constant
J Harvey


Background. Poor knowledge about cervical cancer plays a role in limiting screening uptake. HPV vaccination provides an untested platform to distribute information that could possibly improve knowledge and screening coverage.
Objective. To measure changes in knowledge and screening uptake when information and screening opportunities were provided to mothers of adolescent HPV vaccine recipients.
Methods. During an HPV vaccine implementation project in the Western Cape (WC) and Gauteng Province (GP), South Africa, information about cervical cancer was provided to parents during a lecture, written information was distributed, and mothers were then invited to either screen at their clinic (WC) or use a self-screening kit (GP). A structured questionnaire was used to test cervical cancer knowledge and screening practices, comparing these before and after the project and between the two screening groups.
Results. Complete data for both questionnaires were available for 777 of 906 recruited women. Initial knowledge was poor, but on retesting 6 months later, knowledge about symptoms (p<0.005), screening (p<0.005) and vaccination (p<0.05) improved significantly after the information session and school-based HPV vaccination. In the second questionnaire, women reported significantly more screening and the last reported screening test was more recent. This improvement was more favourable in GP than in the WC (41% v. 26% reporting screening in the past 12 months).
Conclusion. These results demonstrate how adolescent HPV vaccine programmes can help to control cervical cancer among mothers by offering information and screening. It is important not to lose this opportunity to educate mothers and their daughters and offer effective methods to prevent cervical cancer in both generations.