Please cite this paper as: Korfage I, van Ballegooijen M, Wauben B, Looman C, Habbema J, Essink-Bot M. Having a Pap smear, quality of life before and after cervical screening: a questionnaire study. BJOG 2012;119:936–944.
Objective To assess the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) impact of cervical cancer screening in women with normal test results.
Design Questionnaire study.
Setting Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Population A cohort of 789 women were followed from screening invitation until after the receipt of screening results. A female age-matched reference group (n = 567) was included.
Methods Questionnaires were sent to the home address of the women before screening, after screening, and again with the screening results.
Main outcome measures Generic HRQoL (SF-12, EQ-5D), generic anxiety (STAI-6), screen-specific anxiety (PCQ), and potential symptoms and feelings related to the smear-taking procedure.
Results A total of 60% of screening participants completed questionnaire 1(n = 924): 803 of these women granted permission to access their files; 789 of these 803 women had normal test results (Pap 1), and were included in the analyses. Generic HRQoL (SF-12, EQ-5D) and anxiety (STAI-6) scores were similar in the study and reference groups. Before screening, after screening, and also after the receipt of test results, screening participants reported less screen-specific anxiety (PCQ, P < 0.001) than the reference group (n = 567), with differences indicating clinical relevance. 19% of screening participants were bothered by feelings of shame, pain, inconvenience, or nervousness during smear taking, and 8 and 5% of women experienced lower abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, discharge, or urinary problems for 2–3 and 4–7 days, respectively, following the Pap smear.
Conclusion The reduced levels of screen-specific anxiety in screening participants, possibly indicating reassurance, are worthwhile addressing in more depth. We conclude that although considerable numbers of women reported unpleasant effects, there were no adverse HRQoL consequences of cervical screening in women with normal test results.