Background: Breast and cervical cancers are the most common causes of cancer mortality among women in India, but actually they are largely preventable diseases. Although early detection is the only way to reduce morbidity and mortality, there are limited data on breast and cervical cancer knowledge, safe practices and attitudes of teachers in India. The purpose of this study is to assess the level of awareness and impact of awareness programs in adoption of safe practices in prevention and early detection.
Materials and Methods: This assessment was part of a pink chain campaign on cancer awareness. During cancer awareness events in 2011 at various women colleges in different parts in India, a pre-test related to cervical cancer and breast cancer was followed by an awareness program. Post-tests using the same questionnaire were conducted at the end of the interactive session, at 6 months and 1 year.
Results: A total of 156 out of 182 teachers participated in the study (overall response rate was 85.7 %). Mean age of the study population was 42.4 years (range- 28-59 yrs). There was a significant increase in level of knowledge regarding cervical and breast cancer at 6 months and this was sustained at 1 year. Adoption of breast self examination (BSE) was significantly more frequent in comparison to CBE, mammography and the Pap test. Magazines and newspapers were sources for knowledge regarding screening tests for breast cancer in more than 60% of teachers whereas more than 75% were educated by doctors regarding the Pap test. Post awareness at 6 months and 1 year, there was a significant change in alcohol and smoking habits. Major reasons for not doing screening test were found to be ignorance (50%), lethargic attitude (44.8%) and lack of time (34.6%).
Conclusions: Level of knowledge of breast cancer risk factors, symptoms and screening methods was high as compared to cervical cancer. There was a significant increase in level of knowledge regarding cervical and breast cancer at 6 months and this was sustained at 1 year. Adoption of BSE was significantly greater in comparison to CBE, mammography and the Pap test. To inculcate safe practices in lifestyle of people, awareness programmes such as pink chain campaign should be conducted more widely and frequently.