Aim: To investigate the frequency, severity, and duration of after-effects in women undergoing follow-up cervical cytology tests, and to identify subgroups with higher frequencies in Grampian, Tayside, and Nottingham.
Design: Cohort study nested with a multi-centre individually randomised controlled trial.
Method: The cohort included 1120 women, aged 20-59 years, with low-grade abnormal cervical cytology who completed a baseline sociodemographic questionnaire and had a follow-up cervical cytology test in primary care 6 months later. Six weeks after this test, women completed a postal questionnaire on pain, bleeding, and discharge experienced after the test, including duration and severity. The adjusted prevalence of each after-effect was computed using logistic regression.
Results: A total of 884 women (79%) completed the after-effects questionnaire; 30% of women experienced one or more after-effect: 15% reported pain, 16% bleeding, and 7% discharge. The duration of discharge was =2 days for 66%, 3-6 days for 22%, and =7 days for 11% of women. Pain or bleeding lasted =2 days in more than 80% of women. Severe after-effects were reported by <1% of women. The prevalence of pain decreased with increasing age. Bleeding was more frequent among nulliparous women. Discharge was more common among oral contraceptive users.
Conclusion: Pain, bleeding, and discharge are not uncommon in women having follow-up cervical cytology tests. Informing women about possible after-effects could better prepare them and provide reassurance, thereby minimising potential non-adherence with follow-up or non-participation with screening in the future.
- cervical smears
- primary care
- vaginal discharge