Cervical cytology and associated factors among tribal women of Karnataka, India

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Background Reproductive well-being is a crucial element of women's health. Due to the asymptomatic nature of gynaecological morbidities, women rarely seek medical advice in the initial period leading to delayed diagnosis and poor prognosis of subsequent disease. The present study aimed to explore the cervical cytology and its associated risk factors among women from tribal communities of the southern part of coastal Karnataka, India. Methods Papanicolaou (Pap) smear test was performed among 1140 women from three tribal populations, to detect cervical lesions, infections and reactive changes. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to collect data on socio-demographic and reproductive characteristics of the study population. Results The most predominant gynaecological complaint among the participants was severe lower back ache (77.6%), followed by white discharge per vagina (29.0%) and menstrual irregularities (25.9%). Of the 1140 women screened, 12.4% showed cervical microbial infections, 23.6% were reported to have reactive changes, and 0.2% had epithelial cell abnormalities in the cervix. Cervical microbial infections were found to be associated with younger age group, low socio-economic status and younger age at sexual debut. Conclusion Most of the symptoms suggestive of gynaecological morbidities reported in this study are preventable or treatable. Strengthening ongoing cervical cancer screening programme and implementation of health education programmes among tribal population would be the right policy approach to prevent, detect and treat these symptoms at an early stage and to achieve acceptable health outcomes among tribal women.



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