Issues in aging

October 2010


Pap tests

What do women expect?

Volume 39, No.10, October 2010 Pages 775-778

Rebecca Stewart

Jill E Thistlethwaite


Women express various opinions regarding expectations and experiences of having Pap tests, particularly with regards to explanation of the procedure, its implications and results, and accompanied preventive health activities.


To explore patient expectations and experiences regarding Pap tests and associated screening activities.


Semistructured interviews were conducted with volunteer female patients.


Twenty-four women were interviewed. There was variation in expectations regarding consultations for a Pap test, and also of the information given as to what is meant by a ‘normal’ result. Many women expressed a preference for a female and regular health professional to undertake their smear.


Recognition of general and individual barriers to cervical screening by health professionals will enhance patient access to, and acceptance of, screening activities. Understanding patient expectations regarding Pap tests ensures practitioners deliver health services with sufficient information and without false reassurance.

The Pap test is an important, regularly performed procedure in general practice, either alone or as part of a 'well woman check'. Pap tests incur costs to the government of over $100 million annually.1 The value placed on elements of a woman's health check as screening procedures varies among general practitioners, in particular with regards to whether a pelvic examination is a valid screening test and an essential part of the Pap test.2,3

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