Effectiveness of interventions to improve follow-up after abnormal cervical cancer screening

Prev Med. 2000 Oct;31(4):429-39. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2000.0722.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of interventions designed to improve follow-up after an abnormal Pap smear.

Methods: We performed a qualitative meta-analysis of interventions designed to improve follow-up after an abnormal Pap smear and included studies that met the following criteria: randomized or concurrently controlled study design, defined outcomes, and data available for abstraction. Interventions were classified as behavioral, cognitive, sociologic, or combined strategies (e.g., behavioral and cognitive). Abnormal Pap smears were defined as any test result requiring additional follow-up. Effectiveness was measured by the rate of compliance with recommended follow-up.

Results: Twenty-two interventions in 10 studies met the inclusion criteria. Cognitive interventions utilizing interactive telephone counseling were the most effective, improving compliance by 24 to 31%. Behavioral interventions, such as patient reminders, were also effective, increasing follow-up by up to 18%. Not all of these results achieved statistical significance. The single sociologic intervention we identified used video-taped peer discussions to provide a message about abnormal Pap smears and appropriate follow-up. This intervention was not associated with increased follow-up after an abnormal test. The effectiveness of interventions using multiple types of strategies to improve follow-up was inconsistent.

Conclusions: Cognitive strategies led to the greatest improvement in compliance with follow-up of abnormal Pap smear screening tests. Extension of similar interventions to follow-up of abnormal breast and colon cancer screening, development of physician- and system-targeted interventions, and evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of these strategies are important priorities for future research.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colposcopy
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Counseling / standards
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician's Role
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vaginal Smears