Psychological and sociocultural perspectives on follow-up of abnormal Papanicolaou results

Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, Jennifer Catero, James Jaccard, Abbey B. Berenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To understand women's motivation to attend follow-up of an abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) test by applying a general theoretical framework for voluntary behavior. METHODS: Semistructured, face-to-face interviews were conducted among 120 low-income, African-American, Caucasian, or Hispanic outpatients, aged 25-50 years, who presented for routine gynecologic care. Interview questions assessed social, cognitive, environmental, and emotional factors surrounding follow-up for an abnormal Pap test. Content analysis was performed. RESULTS: The majority of women (74%) described then-attitude toward returning for a follow-up visit as favorable. Overall, knowledge regarding the significance of an abnormal result was poor, and misconceptions were common. Perceived barriers, consequences, and social influences associated with attending follow-up were qualitatively different across the 3 racial/ethnic groups. For example, African-American and Hispanic women expressed embarrassment more frequently than Caucasian women and were less likely to anticipate obstacles to attending follow-up. Furthermore, African-American women were the least likely to be influenced by others' opinions and to perceive difficulty in adhering to follow-up recommendations. For nearly all women, adequate communication with their provider was a key component of anticipated adherence. CONCLUSION: Clinicians may exert a positive influence on adherence among patients who experience an abnormal Pap test by engaging patients in a dialogue that accommodates the patient's sociocultural environment, explores concerns regarding the partner's reaction, emphasizes the importance of follow-up, provides a clear understanding of the process and timeline surrounding follow-up recommendations, and encourages the patient to anticipate obstacles to adherence and assists with solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1347-1354
Number of pages8
JournalObstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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