There is little doubt that across types of cancer screening, receiving an abnormal result is a stressful experience (Brett et al, 2005; Parker et al, 2002; Rogstad, 2002). The exception to this is flexible sigmoidoscopy, where the discovery of polyps does not seem to be associated with increased anxiety, regardless of whether people are referred for further investigation or simply have the polyps removed (Wardle et al, 2003). This may be because of the provision of immediate clinical advice and reassurance, as well as a good explanation of what a "polyp" is. Following abnormal mammography, cytology or FOB test results, anxiety and distress tend to be highest while waiting for follow-up appointments, partly due to fear about cancer and future health, but also because of concerns about the follow-up procedures themselves. In countries like the USA with insurance-based health-care systems, concerns about insurance cover for follow-up procedures is likely to be an additional source of anxiety. However, most of the evidence suggests that if the abnormality is resolved, general anxiety quickly falls to normal levels in the majority of people, although cancer-specific concerns may be more enduring. This suggests either that measures of general anxiety are not sensitive enough to pick up concerns about cancer or that these concerns are not severe enough to have an impact on overall anxiety levels.
The introduction of HPV testing into cervical cancer screening brings with it the negative psychological consequences that are more often associated with testing for sexually transmitted infections, including feelings of stigma and shame as well as concerns about transmission, and questions about where the virus has come from, with the associated issues of trust and fidelity (McCaffery et al, 2006). In addition, poor understanding of the meaning of an HPV result can lead to heightened anxiety, at least in the short term (Maissi et al, 2004).
Abnormal screening results may also have desirable effects, including improvements in health behaviors and increased likelihood of attendance at future screening. However, although there is some evidence that a false positive mammography result increases the likelihood of future screening attendance in the USA, other findings are conflicting and may vary between countries (Brewer et al, 2007). As mentioned earlier, one study found that people who had polyps discovered at sigmoidoscopy screening were more likely to stop smoking and less likely to gain weight than people who were given the all-clear (Hoff et al, 2001).
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It seems like you hear it all the time from nearly every one you know I'm SO stressed out!? Pressures abound in this world today. Those pressures cause stress and anxiety, and often we are ill-equipped to deal with those stressors that trigger anxiety and other feelings that can make us sick. Literally, sick.