Sexually active adolescent girls have high rates of abnormal cervical cytology. However, little is known about factors that influence intention to return for Papanicolaou screening or follow-up. The aim of this study was to determine whether a theory-based model that assessed knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors predicted intention to return.


The study design consisted of a self-administered, cross-sectional survey that assessed knowledge, beliefs, perceived control over follow-up, perceived risk, cues for Papanicolaou smears, impulsivity, risk behaviors, and past compliance with Papanicolaou smear follow-up. Participants were recruited from a hospital-based adolescent clinic that provides primary and subspecialty care, and the study sample consisted of all sexually active girls and young women who were aged 12 to 24 years and had had previous Papanicolaou smears. The main outcome measure was intention to return for Papanicolaou smear screening or follow-up.


The enrollment rate was 92% (N = 490), mean age was 18.2 years, 50% were black, and 22% were Hispanic. Eighty-two percent of participants intended to return. Variables that were independently associated with intention to return included positive beliefs about follow-up (odds ratio [OR]: 1.07; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02–1.11), perception that important others believe that the participant should obtain a Papanicolaou smear (OR: 1.93; 95% CI: 1.38–2.74), perceived control over returning (OR: 1.24; 95% CI: 1.06–1.46), and having received cues to obtain a Papanicolaou smear (OR: 1.31; 95% CI: 1.08–1.60).


Analysis of this novel theoretical framework demonstrated that knowledge and previous behaviors were not associated with intention to return for Papanicolaou smear screening and follow-up in this population of young women. However, modifiable attitudinal components, including personal beliefs, perception of others' beliefs, and cues to obtaining Papanicolaou smears, were associated with intention to return.

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