"I hope I don't have cancer": colposcopy and minority women

C Tomaino-Brunner, M C Freda, C D Runowicz
Oncology Nursing Forum 1996, 23 (1): 39-44

PURPOSE: To determine what women scheduled for colposcopy knew about the procedure and to understand their concerns about the test and its implications.

DESIGN: Descriptive, exploratory, qualitative.

SAMPLE AND SETTING: All women scheduled for colposcopy in a three-month period (n = 29) in an inner-city academic center in the northeast United States. The sample consisted of African American (66%), Hispanic (31%), and white (3%) women ranging in age from 17-59 years (x = 39 years).

METHODS: Women were interviewed on the telephone or in person and were asked seven open-ended questions about why they were referred and what they expected would happen at the appointment. Interviews were content analyzed.

FINDINGS: Four themes common to the women's responses emerged from the interview data: fear about their health, apprehension about the colposcopy, uncertainty about the meaning of the Pap test, and pervasive lack of knowledge.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that women in this study scheduled for colposcopy had little factual information about the test or its implications, were anxious about the appointment, and wanted more complete information.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Nurses cannot assume that women understand the reasons for their referral for colposcopy or the implications of the test. These study results imply that lengthened appointment time might be required to provide appropriate education and help alleviate women's anxiety. Future nursing research should examine the effect of anticipatory counselling and education for this group of women.

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