Early detection of cervical cancer in western Kenya: determinants of healthcare providers performing a gynaecological examination for abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding

Emily Mwaliko, Moi University
Guido Van Hal, University of Antwerp
Hilde Bastiaens, University of Antwerp
Stefan Van Dongen, University of Antwerp
Peter Gichangi, Technical University of Mombasa
Barasa Otsyula, Moi University
Violet Naanyu, Moi University
Marleen Temmerman, Aga Khan University


Background: In western Kenya, women often present with late-stage cervical cancer despite prior contact with the health care system. The aim of this study was to predict primary health care providers’ behaviour in examining women who present with abnormal discharge or bleeding.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey using the theory of planned behaviour (TPB). A sample of primary health care practitioners in western Kenya completed a 59-item questionnaire. Structural equation modelling was used to identify the determinants of providers’ intention to perform a gynaecological examination. Bivariate analysis was conducted to investigate the relationship between the external variables and intention.

Results: Direct measures of subjective norms (DMSN), direct measures of perceived behavioural control (DMPBC), and indirect measures of attitude predicted the intention to examine patients. Negative attitudes toward examining women had a suppressor effect on the prediction of health workers’ intentions. However, the predictors of intention with the highest coefficients were the external variables being a nurse (β = 0.32) as opposed to a clinical officer and workload of attending less than 50 patients per day (β = 0.56).

In bivariate analysis with intention to perform a gynaecological examination, there was no evidence that working experience, being female, having a lower workload, or being a private practitioner were associated with a higher intention to conduct vaginal examinations. Clinical officers and nurses were equally likely to examine women.

Conclusions: The TPB is a suitable theoretical basis to predict the intention to perform a gynaecological examination. Overall, the model predicted 47% of the variation in health care providers’ intention to examine women who present with recurrent vaginal bleeding or discharge. Direct subjective norms (health provider’s conformity with what their colleagues do or expect them to do), PBC (providers need to feel competent and confident in performing examinations in women), and negative attitudes toward conducting vaginal examination accounted for the most variance. External variables in this study also contributed to the overall variance. As the model in this study could not explain 53% of the variance, investigating other external variables that influence the intention to examine women should be undertaken.