Is a history of trauma associated with a reduced likelihood of cervical cancer screening?

J Fam Pract. 2002 Oct;51(10):827-31.


Objective: We tested the hypothesis that a history of trauma (especially sexual trauma) was associated with a reduced likelihood of having had medically appropriate cervical cancer screening.

Study design: A case-control study using mailed self-report questionnaires.

Population: The questionnaires were completed by an age-stratified random sample of adult women members of a large health maintenance organization. The sample included 364 women who had received medically appropriate cervical cancer screening and 372 who had not.

Outcomes measured: We defined cases as women who, according to their medical record, had not had cervical cancer screening within 2 years before the study. Controls were defined as women who had been screened. We evaluated exposures to trauma that we hypothesized to be associated with the case/control state.

Results: Women who had been sexually abused in childhood were less likely to have had a Pap smear within the past 2 years (36.0% vs. 50.4%, P =.050). Other traumatic events were associated with Pap testing in bivariate analyses but not when demographic characteristics and clinic location were controlled. Childhood sexual abuse remained associated with reduced odds of Pap screening in logistic regression analyses that controlled for clinic location, demographics, attitudes about Pap screening, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (adjusted OR = 0.56, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.91).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that childhood sexual abuse may lead to decreased probability of screening for cervical cancer, potentially contributing to the poorer health seen in other studies of women who have been sexually abused.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Rape / psychology
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • United States
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vaginal Smears / psychology*