A cluster of articles on the topic attempt to answer new questions about the screening test, which is among the most common performed by family physicians. How could understanding women's experiences change the way clinicians communicate with patients whose Pap smear results are mildly abnormal? Are annual Pap smears so firmly entrenched that patients or clinicians might resist recommendations to reduce their frequency? Is it reasonable to screen for common cancers, like breast cancer and cervical cancer, among the elderly? Do most family physicians routinely use a chaperone when collecting a Pap smear? Is a speculum examination necessary for accurate collection of a sample to detect human papillomavirus, one of the strongest known precursors of cervical cancer?
The November/December issue also includes two additional articles on other important clinical topics. A study by Dickinson and colleagues questions whether a simple care recommendation letter could improve the functional status of patients with somatization disorder a condition in which frequent unexplained physical symptoms cause patient distress and frequent physician visits. In another article, Yawn and colleagues analyze exercise stress test results to determine whether heart rate recovery would be a useful addition to the diagnostic criteria for predicting cardiac and all-cause mortality.
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