Objective: To explore emotional responses, and predictors of negative reactions, among women undergoing human papillomavirus (HPV) tests in routine clinical practice.
Design: Exploratory qualitative interview study.
Setting: A large busy colposcopy clinic in a Dublin hospital.
Sample: Twenty-seven women who had had an HPV DNA test in the previous 6 months following one or more low-grade cytology tests or treatment for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).
Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted. Interview transcripts were analysed using a thematic approach (Framework Analysis).
Main outcome measures: Women's emotional responses and predictors of negative emotional reactions.
Results: For most women, having a test for high-risk HPV types generated little negative or positive emotional impact. Adverse emotional responses related to HPV infection rather than testing. Factors that influenced whether women experienced negative emotional responses were: concerns over abnormal cytology or diagnosis of CIN; HPV knowledge; awareness of HPV being sexually transmitted; awareness of HPV prevalence; and HPV information needs. Women's concerns about abnormal cytology/CIN dominated all other issues.
Conclusions: These qualitative data suggest that in the context of follow up of abnormal cytology or treatment for CIN, the emotional impact of HPV testing may be modest: women's primary concerns at this time relate to abnormal cytology/CIN.
Keywords: Abnormal cytology; cervical intraepithelial neoplasia; cervical screening; emotional responses; human papillomavirus testing; qualitative.
© 2014 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.