Objective: To assess Mexican physicians’ knowledge about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer and their opinions and practices related to screening, managing, and counselling women on these topics.
Methodology: In August 2002 we surveyed 1206 general practitioners (GPs) and obstetricians-gynaecologists (Ob-Gyns) working in a nationally representative sample of public and private facilities in urban Mexico. Eligible physicians completed a self administered questionnaire. We conducted a weighted analysis and used χ2 tests to compare GPs and Ob-Gyns on outcome variables.
Results: 76% of recruited physicians responded to the survey. 43% of Ob-Gyns had performed a hysterectomy in the last year to treat a case of CIN I or II. With respect to HPV, while 80% of respondents identified the virus as the principal cause of cervical cancer, many lacked detailed knowledge about this association. Ob-Gyns were more likely than GPs to have heard about specific oncogenic strains of HPV (p<0.001). Nearly all respondents thought that women should be informed that HPV causes cervical cancer; nevertheless, physicians believed that positioning cervical cancer as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) could cause problems in partner relationships (60%), confusion (40%), and unnecessary anxiety among women (32%).
Conclusions: Mexican physicians support patient education on the HPV-cervical cancer link. However, findings suggest the need to present clear messages to women (emphasising, for example, that only certain types of HPV are oncogenic), to consider the conflicts such information might create for couples, and to further educate physicians about this topic and about overall cervical cancer screening and treatment protocols.
- CIN, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia
- GPs, general practitioners
- HPV, human papillomavirus
- Ob-Gyns, obstetricians-gynaecologists
- Pap, Papanicolaou
- STI, sexually transmitted infections
- human papillomavirus
- cervical cancer
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