Knowledge, attitudes and practices concerning breast cancer, cervical cancer and screening among healthcare professionals and students in Mogadishu, Somalia: a cross-sectional study

7 Oct 2022
Lucas Walz, Deqo Mohamed, Adam Haibah, Nikhil Harle, Samir Al-Ali, Ayan Aden Moussa, Jude Alawa, Mohamed Abdullahi Awale, Kaveh Khoshnood

Introduction: Somali women face exceptionally high mortality and incidence rates from both breast cancer (BC) and cervical cancer (CC). They experience the highest age-standardised BC mortality rate in Africa and an age-standardised BC incidence rate of 41.7 per 100,000 women. Somalia’s second-highest cancer-related mortality and incidence rates are due to CC, both behind BC. It is critical to identify the underlying factors that may influence healthcare workers’ management of both cancers. At present, there is a lack of evidence regarding providers’ knowledge of these two cancers and their screening in Somalia.

Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire was administered with a purposive sampling strategy to 469 healthcare professionals and students and was completed by 405 (86%). Healthcare workers were recruited from Mogadishu-based hospitals.

Results: One hundred and ninety-seven healthcare professionals and 207 students completed the survey and were included in the analysis. 89% and 73% of respondents demonstrated good knowledge of BC and CC, respectively. Only 46% knew that a vaccine could prevent CC, and 89% of healthcare professionals disagreed that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines were available to their patients. Attitudes towards cancer screening, in addition to breast self-examination (BSE), were overwhelmingly positive. For both BC and CC, 24% reported having treated a patient and 30% reported having conducted a screen for either disease.

Conclusion: Overall, while knowledge of both diseases and screening was good, there remain areas for clear educational targeting such as HPV vaccine availability and BC preventability. Attitudes to screening for both diseases were exceedingly positive but, with the exception of BSE, failed to translate into practice due to inadequate resources and patient refusal. Future investments into Somalia’s chronic care management should prioritise technology necessary to conduct screenings for both diseases, expanding HPV vaccine access and understanding patients’ potential motivations for refusing screening.

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