Beliefs influence Pap testing among Vietnamese-Americans

pap test
A recent PHS Division study finds traditional beliefs contribute to lower rates of screening for cervical cancer among Vietnamese-American women. Center News File Photo

Traditional health beliefs and risk-factor knowledge contribute to low cervical-cancer screening rates in Vietnamese-Americans, according to a recent study by Public Health Science Division researchers and colleagues. Cancer-registry data show that Vietnamese women have higher rates of invasive cervical cancer than women of any other race/ethnicity.

In a survey of 370 Vietnamese-American women in the Seattle area:

  • about half of the participants knew that older age, early age of first sexual intercourse and giving birth to many children were cervical-cancer risk factors;

  • more than two-thirds knew that having a sexually transmitted disease, or having multiple sexual partners, or having sex with a man who has multiple partners increases risk;

  • 62 percent of the women were aware that not getting regular Pap tests increases risk;

  • 23 percent knew Vietnamese women are at higher risk than white women;

  • almost 90 percent of the respondents believed poor feminine hygiene increases risk of cervical cancer;

  • almost three-quarters of the women thought not properly observing the "sitting month" (multiple post-partum practices such as avoidance of wind, sexual activity and certain foods following childbirth) is a risk factor;

  • 62 percent believed having the uterus surgically scraped (during an abortion or following a miscarriage) increases the likelihood of disease;

  • 68 percent of respondents had Pap testing during the previous three years.

Drs. Hoai Do, Vicky Taylor and Steve Schwartz of PHS contributed to the study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute and published online Dec. 13 in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.

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