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Misconceptions about Gynecologic Cancer Risk and Pap Test Are Highlighted in Journal of Women's Health
New Rochelle, NY, April 19, 2011-While most women have an annual Pap test, many are confused about gynecologic cancers in general, risk factors and symptoms, and what the Pap smear results mean, according to survey results published in two articles in Journal of Women's Health, a peer-reviewed publication of Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The articles are available free online.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set out to assess women's awareness and understanding of the Pap test and screening for gynecologic cancers in general as it prepares new educational literature as part of its Inside Knowledge campaign in development. Two reports published in Journal of Women's Health summarize the data collected. They show that although most women are aware of the importance of an annual Pap test, many women believe the test can detect multiple types of gynecologic cancer, possibly giving them a false sense of security.
In the first report, "Why the Pap Test? Awareness and Use of the Pap Test Among Women in the U.S.," Nikki Hawkins, PhD, Mona Saraiya, MD, Cyntheia Gelb, and Lindsey Polonec, from the CDC (Atlanta, GA), and Crystale Purvis Cooper, PhD, Soltera Cancer Prevention and Control Research Center (Oro Valley, AZ), analyzed data from the 2008 HealthStyles survey completed by nearly 3,000 women. Most of the women knew the Pap test is used to screen for cervical cancer, but more than half also believe it can detect vaginal cancer, sexually transmitted diseases other than human papilloma virus (HPV), ovarian cancer, and other cancers and infections.
The second study also reported misconceptions that the Pap test screens for multiple gynecologic cancers and showed that the women surveyed were generally unfamiliar with the symptoms and risk factors for gynecologic cancer. In "Women's Knowledge and Awareness of Gynecologic Cancer: A Multisite Qualitative Study in the United States," Dr. Cooper and Ms. Polonec and Gelb suggest that the annual gynecologic examination offers an ideal opportunity to educate women about the Pap test and about gynecologic cancer risk factors and symptoms.
"Clearly, better education is needed to correct women's misperceptions about the Pap test and gynecologic cancers," says Editor-In-Chief Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women's Health, and Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health, Richmond, VA.
Journal of Women's Health, published monthly, is a core multidisciplinary journal dedicated to the diseases and conditions that hold greater risk for or are more prevalent among women, as well as diseases that present differently in women. The Journal covers the latest advances and clinical applications of new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic protocols for the prevention and management of women's healthcare issues. Journal of Women's Health is the Official Journal of the American Medical Women's Association.