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Prev Med. 2004 Jul;39(1):81-90.

Processes of care in cervical and breast cancer screening and follow-up--the importance of communication.

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Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.



Given limited research, we investigated patient reports of processes of care related to screening follow-up, timing of result notification, communication issues, and adherence following an abnormal mammogram or Pap test.


Women age 50 and over with an abnormal screening mammogram and women age 18 and above with an abnormal Pap test result completed surveys. The mammogram and Pap survey instruments had similar items except pertaining to measures specific to mammography or Pap tests. Bivariate associations between processes of care variables (test results, result receipt, recommendation adherence, receipt of confusing/conflicting information) and global satisfaction were explored using chi-square contingency table analysis. Multivariable logistic regression modeling was conducted.


One thousand one hundred thirty-four women (79.1%) completed the mammogram survey and 1087 women (69.7%) completed the Pap survey. The majority of women received test results quickly. High compliance was reported with recommendations for short-term follow-up. Conflicting/confusing information was reported by a minority of women, but was significantly and positively related to reporting that "care could be better". Patient's lack of understanding about equivocal findings was evident.


This study confirms that patients need clear messages about recommendations, especially when findings are equivocal and where multiple providers are involved in the process of making clinical decisions.

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