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Research Projects

Breast and Cervical Cancer Symptom Awareness in South Africa

Breast and Cervical Cancer Symptom Awareness in South Africa

Prof Jennifer Moodley

Prof Jennifer Moodley

Title of the project

Breast and cervical cancer symptom awareness in South Africa.

Project Description

Breast and cervical cancer are the leading causes of cancer morbidity and mortality among women in South Africa (SA), with the majority of patients presenting with late stage disease. Studies have shown that for symptomatic cancer shorter time to presentation to a health care provider is associated with early stage disease and a better prognosis. Hence understanding processes related to cancer symptom awareness and responses to symptoms are important in developing interventions to promote earlier cancer diagnosis. Accurate measurement of cancer symptom awareness and beliefs will allow for the identification of knowledge and beliefs that need to be targeted in interventions. The main objectives of this project are to measure community breast and cervical cancer awareness and beliefs in urban and rural setting in SA using a locally validated measurement tool; assess how symptom overlap with common infectious diseases influences interpretation of cancer symptoms; and explore factors associated with primary health care provider interpretation and management of breast and cervical cancer signs and symptoms. Quantitative and qualitative research methods will be used to meet the study objectives. Findings will contribute to the evidence base for the development of future interventions to promote timely diagnosis of symptomatic breast and cervical cancer in SA.

Non-scientific report:

One of the main aims of this study is to understand women’s awareness of breast and cervical cancer symptoms and risk factors, lay beliefs, confidence in detecting bodily changes, help-seeking behavior and barriers to care. We conducted household surveys in one urban and one rural site in South Africa, interviewing a total of 871 women. We are completing analysis of this data. We have also conducted in-depth interviews with women who had a breast or cervical symptom. These results will provide us with a better understanding of how women interpret and manage symptoms. We have also interviewed primary health care providers to understand their views on breast and cervical cancer diagnosis and management. Data analysis is underway.


  1. Development and validation of the African Women Awareness of CANcer (AWACAN) too for breast and cervical cancer (2019)
  2. Symptom awareness measures for breast and cervical cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa: A scoping review (2018)
  3. Towards timely diagnosis of symptomatic breast and cervical cancer in South Africa (2018)


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