A source of error in self-reports of pap test utilization

J Community Health. 2002 Oct;27(5):351-6. doi: 10.1023/a:1019888627113.


The prevention and early detection of cervical cancer is achieved through women's regular use of Pap tests. Ascertaining adherence to Pap screening guidelines is often based on self-report, which may be unreliable. This study examined the reliability of Pap test self-reports and one potential source of error in them. We predicted that women having any gynecological examination (other than Pap tests) would falsely report having had a Pap test more often than women who had not experienced gynecological procedures. We compared self-reported Pap test utilization with medical records among 161 low-income women. Women with no Pap test in their medical record but who had experienced other gynecological procedures falsely reported a Pap test significantly more often than those women who actually received a Pap test or who had not received any gynecological procedure. Confusion over what type of gynecological procedures these women received could result in their under-utilization of Pap tests. Further, these findings question the validity of study findings based only on self-reported outcomes.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Poverty
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Disclosure*
  • United States
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data*