A report, published in health journal Sexual Health, has found nearly all women had had at least one Pap smear test in their lives with 26 percent reporting an abnormal result.
Two thirds of these women were treated at clinics after abnormal tests with about one in five women reporting negative effects on their sex lives.
More than 900 women aged between 18-59, randomly selected from the Commonwealth electoral roll, took part in the survey from 1999.
Dr Fran Boyle, a contributing author and UQ School of Population Health Senior Lecturer, said abnormal test results were more common than what most women thought.
"With widespread screening inevitably comes a greater likelihood of detecting abnormalities," Dr Boyle said.
"An abnormal result can arise for a number of reasons, many of which are not cause for alarm.
"For many women the immediate assumption is that it is something very serious.
"We really need to think about how the term abnormal Pap smear and the different meanings of such a result are communicated to women.
"We also need to ensure that women are well-prepared for the possibility of an abnormal result because it is something that is relatively common in the community."
Dr Boyle said the strength of this study was that it was one of the few that were based on women from the general community and not on women who had been to clinics.
Dr Boyle worked with researchers from UQ, The University of Birmingham, and Queensland University of Technology.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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