Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2336–2347 | Cite as

Women’s Understanding of the Term ‘Pap smear’: A Comparison of Spanish-Speaking Versus English-Speaking Women

  • David L. HowardEmail author
  • Beth Soulli
  • Nicole Johnson
  • Saladin Cooper


Objective To compare the understanding of the term ‘Pap smear’ among Spanish-speaking women, as compared to their English-speaking counterparts. Methods Surveys were distributed to English and Spanish speaking female patients in an urban Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic. Patients were at least 18 years old or they were less than 18 years old and pregnant. Results A majority of participants (77.3 % English-speaking vs. 74.1 % Spanish-speaking, respectively) were able to identify at least one correct descriptor for the term Pap smear. However, Spanish-speaking women were significantly less likely to choose incorrect descriptors. Spanish-speaking women were much less likely to say that a Pap smear was the same as a Pelvic exam (45.7 vs. 78.8 %; p = 0.001), or a test for a sexually transmitted disease (25 vs. 60.6 %; p = 0.001). Conclusions for Practice Compared to English-speaking women, Spanish-speaking women are much less likely to conflate a pelvic exam with a Pap smear. Overall understanding was suboptimal, regardless of primary language, indicating that major efforts are still needed to improve functional health literacy with respect to cervical cancer screening.


Pap smear Pelvic exam Understanding Cervical cancer Spanish-speaking 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Howard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Beth Soulli
    • 2
  • Nicole Johnson
    • 2
  • Saladin Cooper
    • 2
  1. 1.WellHealth Quality Care/Las Vegas Minimally Invasive SurgeryLas VegasUSA
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas CityUSA

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