Women's reactions to HPV diagnosis: insights from in-depth interviews

Women Health. 2006;43(2):93-110. doi: 10.1300/J013v43n02_06.


Research links certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) to subsequent development of cervical cancer. Women (n=52) recently diagnosed with HPV following an abnormal Pap smear participated in in-depth interviews to explore their knowledge of HPV, their emotional responses to diagnosis, and the extent of their disclosure of their HPV diagnosis to others. Women had many knowledge deficits about HPV. Emotions related primarily to stigma, fear, self-blame, powerlessness, and anger. Most women disclosed their disease to significant others, usually to a sexual partner. Women's lack of accurate knowledge may contribute to the array of emotions they experience. Whereas education about HPV may reduce the potency of these emotions, information alone may be inadequate for achieving optimal patient care. Health care providers can be important in treating the emotional elements associated with diagnosis as well as the condition itself.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Narration
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Infections / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / psychology
  • Vaginal Smears / psychology*
  • Women's Health*