The invasive cervical cancer review: psychological issues surrounding disclosure

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An audit of the screening history of all new cervical cancer cases has been a requirement since April 2007. While NHS cervical screening programmes (NHSCSP) guidance requires that women diagnosed with cervical cancer are offered the findings of the audit, as yet there has been no research to investigate the psychological impact that meeting to discuss the findings might have on patients. This is in spite of the fact that cytological under-call may play a role in as many as 20% of cervical cancer cases. This review draws on the literature concerning breaking bad news, discussing cancer and disclosing medical errors, in order to gain insight into both the negative and positive consequences that may accompany a cervical screening review meeting. We conclude that while patients are likely to experience some distress at disclosure, there are also likely to be positive aspects, such as greater trust and improved perception of care.

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