Adolescent and young adult women's misunderstanding of the term Pap smear

UMMS Affiliation

Departments of Pediatrics; Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adolescent Behavior; Adult; Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia; Female; *Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Humans; Linear Models; Mass Screening; Multivariate Analysis; Patient Compliance; Population Surveillance; Questionnaires; Sensitivity and Specificity; Sexually Transmitted Diseases; *Terminology as Topic; Uterine Cervical Neoplasms; Vaginal Smears


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Pediatrics


OBJECTIVE: To learn more about young women's understanding of the term Pap smear.

DESIGN: Self-administered survey.

SETTING: UMass Memorial Adolescent Clinic.

PARTICIPANTS: Female patients 14 years or older (and their mothers when available) who visited the clinic between June 10 and August 9, 2002.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Accuracy of participants' written definition for the term Pap smear and knowledge that a "Pap smear" is a test for cervical cancer and not synonymous with a pelvic examination, sexually transmitted disease test, pregnancy test, or checkup.

RESULTS: Three (2.7%) of the 111 adolescent participants provided an accurate definition of the term Pap smear. Sixty-eight percent mistakenly believed that a Pap smear was the same as a pelvic examination. Age, history of sexual intercourse, and having had a Pap smear correlated with a better Pap smear definition rating.

CONCLUSIONS: Remarkably few patients who participated in this study understood the meaning of the term Pap smear. Confusion about gynecologic terms may hinder efforts to enhance compliance with sexually transmitted disease and cervical cancer screening. Educational initiatives are needed to improve young people's comprehension and to prevent misunderstandings about gynecologic care and miscommunication between patients and their health care providers.

DOI of Published Version



Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Oct;158(10):966-70. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Archives of pediatrics and adolescent medicine 15809400

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID