According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), India has the highest number of cervical cancer cases in the world. There are an estimated 1,32,000 new cases and 74,000 deaths each year which occur due to cervical cancer in India [1
]. Sexually transmitted infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) is fundamental to the development of carcinoma of the cervix. HPV prevalence increases with multiple sexual partners and poor genital hygiene. Of the 100 HPV types, 18 have been categorized as high-risk types for cervical cancer, while the rest are low-risk types [2
]. Cervarix® made by Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) is a bivalent vaccine that protects against HPV strains 16 and 18, and Gardasil® by Merck is a quadrivalent vaccine that protects the individual against HPV strains 16, 18, 6 and 11. These two types of vaccine are available for use by the community with private health care providers. However, there is no provision for HPV vaccine at the institute where the study has been carried out. HPV types 16 and 18 are said to account for approximately 70% of all cervical cancer cases in India [3
]. The Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), a USA-based not for profit non-governmental organization (NGO), has been undertaking post-licensing observational studies on HPV vaccines in India on coverage, acceptability, feasibility and costs of the vaccines in two Indian states, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [4
]. The study was suspended in April 2010 by the Government of India amid public concerns about safety. Currently, PATH and the Indian government are investigating whether to implement a HPV vaccination program [5
Cervical cancer is a deadly disease once it reaches the invasive stages, but out of all the female genital tract cancers, it is the only preventable cancer if detected at its early stages. Population-based screening with Pap smear is an important secondary preventive measure for cervical cancer that leads to a high-cure rate among cervical cancer patients. The facilities to carry out Pap smear are available in the institute where the study has been carried out. Also, under the National Cancer Control Programme, screening camps for early detection of cervical cancer are organized in various regions of Gujarat at regular intervals by the Gujarat Cancer Research Institute which is one of the regional cancer care institutes of India.
A recent qualitative study [6
] reported a low level of knowledge on HPV and cervical cancer among children, parents, teachers, community leaders and even health service providers of four developing countries (India, Peru, Uganda and Vietnam). Very similar results, i.e. lack of proper knowledge regarding cervical cancer, were found in several studies conducted in other countries in the world [7
Nurses can provide health promotion counselling to the patients they serve in their day-to-day practice. They can fulfil a key role in health promotion and disease prevention, and they are in an ideal position to provide health education to young girls and women. It is necessary to make the nursing staff aware about cervical cancer, who can impart knowledge regarding cervical cancer and its prevention to the general public. The present study was carried out among the nursing staff of a tertiary health institute in order to assess their knowledge regarding cervical cancer.