If a cervical smear test reveals abnormal cells the woman will be offered colposcopy, a technique that involves a doctor studying the cervix with a special microscope. Many women find the whole procedure highly stressful and have particularly high levels of anxiety before and during colposcopy.
Researchers working for The Cochrane Collaboration studied data from eleven trials that involved a total of 1441 women and assessed four different methods of attempting to reduce anxiety.
They concluded that listening to music during colposcopy produced a significant reduction in anxiety levels, but pre-test counselling, information leaflets and video information all had no effect.
In addition they found that a combining an information video and leaflets was more effective at reducing anxiety than leaflets alone.
Finally the research showed that using video colposcopy, which allows the woman to watch the procedure on a TV monitor and consequently understand the process more fully, is another way of helping the woman remain calm.
"Cervical cancer is a very serious disease and it is important that we encourage women to take part in screening tests. Using the best ways of helping women relax during the process makes it less unpleasant and could consequently help increase the numbers of women who take up the offer of screening," says lead researcher Dr Khadra Galaal who works at the Northern Gynaecological Centre, Gateshead, UK.