Participation in screening for breast and cervical cancer among women with current or previous drug use: a survey study

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Background: Women with current or previous drug use (WCPDU) have an increased risk of poor breast and cervical cancer outcomes. Screening is known to decrease the mortality of these common cancer forms, but screening participation has been sparsely investigated among women with drug dependency. The aim of this study was to assess participation in screening for breast and cervical cancer among WCPDU. Methods: We recruited WCPDU to a survey study, from six opioid substitution treatment (OST) clinics and one needle exchange program (NEP) in Malmö, Sweden, and through the Drug Users Union in Stockholm, Sweden. The survey was constructed according to results from focus group discussions about cancer screening in a sample of women in OST. Survey data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. We analyzed associations between non-compliance to screening and healthcare contact (OST, NEP or none) by logistic regression analysis; unadjusted and adjusted for age, native language, housing situation, educational attainment and main source of income. Results: A total of 298 women (median age 43 years) responded to the survey. The self-reported compliance with cancer screening recommendations was 29% for breast cancer screening and 41% for cervical cancer screening. Non-compliance with cervical cancer screening was associated with NEP participation in univariate but not multivariate analysis. We did not find an association between non-compliance with breast cancer screening and healthcare contact. Non-compliance with screening for cervical cancer was also associated with unstable housing in univariate and multivariate analyses, and inversely associated with increasing age in a univariate analysis. Non-compliance with breast cancer was associated with unstable housing in a univariate analysis, and inversely associated with not having Swedish as a native language in a multivariate analysis. Conclusion: The self-reported compliance with the national cancer screening programs for breast cancer and cervical cancer of WCPDU is notably lower than in the Swedish general population. Women with unstable housing seem to be particularly vulnerable to non-compliance with cancer screening. Interventions to minimize barriers to cancer screening are crucial to decrease the increased cancer morbidity and mortality among WCPDU.

Original languageEnglish
Article number352
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology

Free keywords

  • Cancer disparities
  • Cancer screening
  • Drug use
  • Health Services accessibility
  • Opioid substitution treatment
  • Sweden
  • Women


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