• Open Access

What Australian women want and when they want it: cervical screening testing preferences, decision-making styles and information needs


Mbathio Dieng MIPH, MEcon (Hons)
Research Assistant
Sydney School of Public Health
Room 125/Building A27
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006
E-mail: mbathio.dieng@sydney.edu.au


Background  New testing technologies and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines have recently brought changes to cervical cancer screening. In 2006, the Australian government also changed the protocol for managing abnormal Pap smears. Australian women’s attitudes and preferences to these changes are largely unknown. Quantitative data on information needs and community attitudes to informed decision making in screening in Australia are also limited.

Objective  This national study measures women’s preferences for testing and management of abnormal screening results, preferred decision-making styles and information needs for cervical cancer screening.

Design  A randomly selected sample of Australian women aged 18–70 participated in a structured telephone questionnaire, exploring testing preferences, information and decision-making needs.

Results  A total of 1279, of 1571 eligible women, participated in the study with an overall response rate of 81.4%. Half of the women (n = 637) preferred having their Pap smears at least annually, and 85% wanted concurrent HPV testing. A large proportion of women preferred to be involved in decision making for both routine Pap smears (87%) and follow-up for abnormal results (89%). The majority of women wanted information on screening risks (70%) and benefits (77%); of these 81 (85%) wanted this information before screening. However, 63% of women only wanted information about follow-up examinations if they had an abnormal Pap test result.

Conclusion  Australian women want to be involved in decision making for cervical cancer screening and require information on the risks and benefits of Pap testing prior to undergoing any screening.