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Study Shows That Women Need To Be Explained About The Smear Test

A report in the British Journal of Cancer, explained that the women who receive abnormal smear test results need more reassurance that they are not necessarily on the brink of cancer, // More information is needed to help women understand their test results and ease their fears over cervical cancer. A study of more than 3500 women with slightly abnormal smears found that more than a quarter had unnecessarily high levels of anxiety.

Nicola Gray, of Aberdeen University's department of general practice and primary care and the study's lead author, said these results showed that those with slightly abnormal, or low-grade, smears suffered similar anxiety levels to women with high-grade smears. This she suggested was because women may not understand their test results or the meaning of the term pre-cancerous, and wrongly conclude that any abnormalities detected must indicate cancer. So she said that it was important to introduce strategies to improve women's understanding and to address their fears about cancer, treatment and fertility to help reduce this anxiety. She went on to explain that the women at highest risk of feeling anxious tended to be younger, have children, be smokers or had the highest levels of physical activity.

In this study, the women were screened for clinically significant anxiety using a scale known as the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (Hads). On examining the scores the researchers found that 23% of the women were classified as probable cases of clinical anxiety and 20% of women as possible cases. These results they found were similar to those for women whose smears showed a higher degree of abnormality. The researchers said that this shows that there is not enough being done to inform women about what an abnormal smear means.

A slightly abnormal smear test indicates changes in the cells that could lead to cancer in the future but rarely does it mean that a woman already has cancer. In the majority of cases
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