Cervical screening program and the psychological impact of an abnormal Pap smear: a self-assessment questionnaire study of 590 patients



Invasive cervical cancer is today the fourth most common cancer of women in western civilization. Screening programs have led to a continuously decrease. Nevertheless, both screening and a positive test result are known to be associated with a negative psychological impact. Screening programs in European countries differ and thus psychological impact might as well. The aim of this study was to evaluate the psychological impact of women with an abnormal Pap smear in a German cohort.


Between July 2013 and May 2014, a self-assessment questionnaire was distributed to 595 patients that were referred to a special clinic for cervical dysplasia for further evaluation of an abnormal Pap smear. Patients were recruited in five different centers.


Most patients (45.9 %) were informed about the test result via phone call by their doctor. 68.8 % of the patients felt anxious and 26.3 % even felt panic. After having talked to their physician, 51.4 % of our cohort still felt worried and only 24.4 % felt reassured. Concerning disease management, 48.4 % underwent a control Pap smear in 6 months. The preferred information source was the physician (63.9 %). Compared to the results in other European countries, our study cohort showed differences concerning age distribution, patients living in a partnership, number of children and especially disease management.


Cancer screening itself and abnormal test results have an impact on patient’s feelings. To reduce the psychological impact, patients need to be better informed about the risks and benefits of cancer screening programs and in case of cervical cancer screening about the meaning of an abnormal test result. Our results underline the importance of a trustful physician–patient relationship in that matter.

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Correspondence to Fabinshy Thangarajah.

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Thangarajah, F., Einzmann, T., Bergauer, F. et al. Cervical screening program and the psychological impact of an abnormal Pap smear: a self-assessment questionnaire study of 590 patients. Arch Gynecol Obstet 293, 391–398 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-015-3821-z

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  • Pap smear
  • Psychological impact
  • Cervical cancer screening