Women's Initial Experience of Abnormal Papanicolaou Smear

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To discover the early subjective experience of women affected by abnormal Papanicolaou smear, a qualitative study was undertaken with 8 North Carolina women, 4 to 12 months postnotification of their first abnormal result. Data were analyzed via grounded theory methodology to identify a core theory that could guide interventions to improve follow-up for cancer prevention. This theoretical process is described as a labyrinth journey—an imperative healing process undertaken by all participants, who undertook the following tasks: evaluating peril, seeking refuge, obtaining information, and reframing their self-image. Women who also learned they were infected with the human papillomavirus faced a prolonged sense of threat to their sense of sexual well-being. Their additional tasks related to reevalu-ating their sexual self-image, and they continued to work on these reframing tasks throughout their 1st year's journey. Progress through the labyrinth depended upon emotional or spiritual support, nonjudgmental acceptance and access to accurate information.

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