Human papillomavirus, genital warts, Pap smears, and cervical cancer: knowledge and beliefs of adolescent and adult women

Health Care Women Int. 2000 Jul-Aug;21(5):361-74. doi: 10.1080/07399330050082218.


The high prevalence of genital warts, human papillomavirus (HPV), and the virus's cancer-causing potential warrant that women be well informed about these conditions and measures to prevent them. The purpose of this descriptive study was to examine women's knowledge and beliefs about genital warts, HPV, cervical cancer, and Pap tests. We interviewed 40 women recruited from health clinics in Chicago (20 adults) and Indianapolis (20 adolescents) about these issues. Audiotapes of the interviews were transcribed and analyzed. Among both the adults and adolescents there was a good deal of misunderstanding about symptoms associated with genital warts, about the purpose of Pap smears, and about the association of genital HPV with abnormal Pap smears and cervical cancer. The gaps in women's understanding about this potentially deadly infection suggest the need for more comprehensive education about preventing genital HPV, the infection's possible sequelae, and the significance of Pap screening for cancer detection and prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Condylomata Acuminata / pathology
  • Condylomata Acuminata / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Papillomaviridae*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / psychology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / pathology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / psychology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology
  • Vaginal Smears / psychology*