Psychological after-effects of colposcopy: prevalence of worries, anxiety and depression at 4 months

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Publication date: 
August, 2011
Presentation type: 
Oral presentation
Related staff: 
Dr Mairead O'Connor (former staff)
Mr Eamonn O'Leary (former staff)
Prof Linda Sharp (former staff)

Introduction: It is widely known that colposcopy can be a distressing experience for women. Various studies have reported raised anxiety levels both prior to and during the examination. Considerably less is known about the psychological after-effects of colposcopy and associated procedures. We assessed worries, anxiety and depression in women following colposcopy.

Methods: Questionnaires were mailed to women, who had completed their initial colpscopic management at two large Dublin hospitals; they were dispatched 4 months post-colposcopy. Anxiety and depression were assessed by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS; significantly anxiety, HADS subscale score ≥11; significant depression, HADS subscale score =>8). Questions on worries about general health, cervical cancer, ability to have children in the future and having sex were also incorporated from the Process Outcome Specific Measure (POSM). Recruitment for the study is ongoing and these results relate to the first 149 respondents.       

Results: Just under one-third of respondents had completed third level education. 36% were aged 22-30. Almost 40% reported that they currently smoked. 25% had previously had another colposcopy. Over half (54%) had concerns about their general health, 54% were worried about their future fertility and 43% had fears about having cervical cancer. 25% said that they were worried about having sex. The prevalence of significant anxiety and depression was 24% and 12%, respectively. Prevalence of worries, anxiety and depression did not vary by women’s socio-demographic characteristics or by whether they had previously had another colposcopy. Women with anxiety were more likely to be concerned about their general health, having sex and worry that they had cervical cancer.

Conclusions: High proportions of women report significant anxiety and depression following colposcopy. These results also reveal some of the specific issues which concern women. . Interventations that focus on women’s concerns over having sex, their general health and future fertility and address fears about cancer may help reduce the adverse psychological impact of.colposcopy.

Take home message(s): Better understanding of the after-effects of colposcopy is needed to underpin the development of interventions to help minimize the adverse psychological impact of cervical screening on women.

Published abstract: 
M O'Connor, J Murphy, C White, C Ruttle, C Martin, G Flannelly, G von Bunau, J O'Leary, L Pilkington, M Anglim, M Turner, N Farah, S Cleary, T Darcy, W Prendiville, L Sharp
M O'Connor
Conference/meeting title: 
Event date: 
13 Jul 2011 to 16 Jul 2011
Keele, UK
Page numbers: 

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