A review of the literature on adherence with recommended follow-up after an abnormal screening Papanicolaou smear result reveals that many women do not receive adequate follow-up. Primary care providers can influence the number of women who undergo timely colposcopy or a subsequent Papanicolaou smear by addressing common barriers to follow-up. Physicians should anticipate fears commonly experienced by women when they learn of abnormal Papanicolaou smear results, including fear of cancer, fear of pain during colposcopy, and fear of loss of sexual or reproductive function. An awareness that certain populations are at especially high risk of inadequate follow-up, including black and Hispanic women, women with less than a high school education, and women of low socioeconomic status, can help physicians target their efforts. Practical strategies for improving follow-up include speaking directly with the patient about results, emphasizing the precancerous nature of most lesions, actively preparing the patient for colposcopy by describing the procedure and its complications, and addressing fears about the common treatment options for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Office-based reminder systems and educational materials may also be used as adjuncts to personal contact.
ASJC Scopus subject areas