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Scott Med J. 1995 Jun;40(3):81-2.

Women's experiences at cervical screening.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School.


Concerns about attendance for cervical screening has focussed on determining the reasons why some women never attend. Less attention has been paid to whether women continue to attend for further smears, although this is essential for further screening. This study investigated women's experiences of cervical screening and their views on subsequent attendance. Three hundred and thirty nine women aged 20-64 were identified from a computerised register of cervical smears as having had a smear test within the previous three years. They were interviewed at home about their most recent experience of screening. Just over half of the women (53%) recalled being anxious before the test, and about one fifth reported embarrassment (19%) or pain (20%) during it. The frequencies of discomfort were higher amongst those who were anxious about the test, although 24% of those who were embarrassed and 28% who had pain reported being unconcerned beforehand. The frequencies of pain and embarrassment were only slightly higher when the smear taker was male. Many women (22%) reported being concerned about the test result although only 10% of those who were concerned were recalled for further assessment. Although a number of women had unpleasant experiences, almost all (95%) who were under 60 years of age said they were likely to attend for a subsequent smear. Taking cervical smears is often an unpleasant experience for women, although some of the distressing events could easily have been avoided. Attention to technique and to the concerns of individual patients, especially ensuring privacy, could reduce the extent of the problem. The uptake of subsequent smears should be monitored to ensure that women are not being discouraged from attendance.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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