Women who are concerned about cervical cancer are screened more often than is recommended, according to a study from the Soltera Center for Cancer Prevention and Control in Tucson, Arizona. Although the United States cervical cancer screening guidelines state that women can safely wait between three or five years (depending on age and type of screen) between screenings, many women prefer to be screened more often.
“US women’s acceptance of and preference for an extended cervical cancer screening interval appears to be more widespread than utilization,” stated the researchers. “Strategies to educate women about the reasoning behind recommendations for less-than-annual testing and to foster informed preferences should be devised and evaluated.”
To conduct a study on the feelings of women on the frequency of cervical cancer screens, the authors of “Acceptable and Preferred Cervical Cancer Screening Intervals Among US Women” analyzed data collected via the internet from 1,380 women older than 18 years of age. Four simple questions were asked of each woman: “Typically, how often do you get a Pap test?” “Which of the following cervical cancer screening options would be acceptable to you if your doctor recommended it for you?” “If your doctor offered each of these cervical cancer screening options to you, which one would your prefer?” and “To the best of your knowledge, the reason to have a Pap test or Pap smear is to check for which of the following?”
The results of these questions were published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Pap smears were most widely used, accepted, and preferred by the surveyed women. Although one third of women believed it would be acceptable to extend the time between screenings, only 6.3% actually waited the recommended time between screenings.
To postulate a reason as to why women are hesitant to extend the time between screenings, the researchers considered, “A desire to minimize healthcare visits for convenience or other reasons may be the underlying characteristic that accounts for the associations with no primary care visits during the prior year and receipt of last Pap test from an internist/family practitioner, which may have been administered in the context of a one-stop, comprehensive health maintenance examination.” Alternatively, if women have a history of normal Pap smears, they are more likely to believe their risk for cervical cancer is low and thus receive a Pap smear less often. Ultimately, the researchers believe greater education on the recommendation for extended screening is necessary.