Adverse psychologic consequences of positive cytologic cervical screening

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1991 Sep;165(3):658-62. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(91)90304-a.


Cervical cancer is still widely prevalent in the female population. This study explores the relationship of cervical cancer screening, positive versus negative Papanicolaou's test results, and psychologic status among lower-income minority women. All patients were interviewed 3 months after they had received initial test results. One hundred six women with normal Papanicolaou's test results were compared with 118 women who were referred for colposcopic examination for follow-up of positive test results. Women with positive Papanicolaou's-test results showed statistically significant elevations in worries about cancer and impairments in mood, daily activities, sexual interest, and sleep patterns. More fine-grained analyses revealed that the effects of positive results were most pronounced among those women who did not comply with colposcopy (n = 53). These findings suggest that lack of compliance with follow-up may maintain high levels of uncertainty about disease and may interfere with successful psychologic adaptation. Health education targeted to psychologically vulnerable individuals may reduce psychologic distress and enhance compliance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patient Compliance
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Vaginal Smears* / psychology