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Home HPV Research HPV Research Survey Says: Simply Screening for HPV and Related Diseases is Stressful

Survey Says: Simply Screening for HPV and Related Diseases is Stressful

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A study shows that while diagnosis with HPV or a related condition packs an emotional wallop, the experience of merely being screened for cervical cancer is stressful even for women with normal Pap test results.

To examine the psychosocial impact of HPV screening and diagnosis, women were recruited from a OB/GYN hospital and sexual health clinic in Melbourne, Australia and completed two general quality of life questionnaires in addition to the HPV Impact Profile (HIP), a tool designed specifically to measure the degree to which diagnosed with an HPV-related disease affects women across seven categories: Worries and Concerns; Emotional Impact; Sexual Impact; Self Image; Partner & Transmission; Interaction with Doctors, and Control.

Believing that general quality of life measures are likely not adequate to fully gauge the impact of HPV-specific responses, the investigators say their study was motivated in part due to the existence of scant research that looks at the impact of screening and diagnosis using tools specifically designed to measure impact of HPV-related issues, an argument supported by their findings.

While responses on all questionnaires revealed an emotional impact associated with screening and HPV, the HIP survey detected more severe fallout, especially among women with HPV diseases, detecting what the investigators term a “significant psychosocial impact.” This was true even among women with normal Pap tests, who reported problems in “Worries and Concerns” and “Interaction with Doctors” categories. Not surprisingly, though, the most striking impact was found among women with HPV-related diseases, especially those with external genital warts or severely abnormal Pap results (CIN 2/3).

Compared to women with normal or mildly abnormal Pap tests, women with warts or CIN 2/3 were much more likely to report their diagnosis caused difficulty in the sexual impact, self image, and partner & transmission categories.

The authors say using the HPV-specific survey gives deeper insight into women’s reactions regarding specific HPV diseases, and such research is useful in informing health care providers “…that the burden of HPV is broader than just the diseases it causes…”

M Pirotta, L Ung, A Stein, EL Conway, TC Mast, CK Fairley, S Garland. The psychosocial burden of human papillomavirus related disease and screening interventions. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2009. 85:508-513.