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Emotional response to testing positive for human papillomavirus at cervical cancer screening: a mixed method systematic review with meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Emily McBride, Ovidiu Tatar, Zeev Rosberger, Lauren Rockliffe, Laura M. Marlow, Rona Moss-Morris, Navdeep Kaur, Jo Waller

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Published24 May 2020

King's Authors


Tens-of-millions of women every year test positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) at routine cervical screening. We performed a mixed-methods systematic review using a results-based convergent design to provide the first comprehensive overview of emotional response to testing positive for HPV (HPV+). We mapped our findings using the cognitive behavioural framework. Six electronic databases were searched from inception to 09-Nov-2019 and 33 papers were included. Random-effects meta-analyses revealed that HPV+ women with abnormal or normal cytology displayed higher short-term anxiety than those with normal results (MD on State-Trait Anxiety Inventory = 7.6, 95% CI: 4.59–10.60 and MD = 6.33, CI: 1.31–11.35, respectively); there were no long-term differences. Psychological distress (general/sexual/test-specific) was higher in HPV+ women with abnormal cytology in the short-term and long-term (SMD = 0.68, CI: 0.32–1.03 and SMD = 0.42, CI: 0.05–0.80, respectively). Testing HPV+ was also related to disgust/shame, surprise and fear about cancer. Broadly, adverse response related to eight cognitive constructs (low control, confusion, cancer-related concerns, relationship concerns, sexual concerns, uncertainty, stigma, low trust) and six behavioural constructs (relationship problems, social impact, non-disclosure of results, idiosyncratic prevention, indirect clinical interaction, changes to sexual practice). Almost exclusive use of observational and qualitative designs limited inferences of causality and conclusions regarding clinical significance.

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