RESEARCH – February 2006

Current status of mammography and Pap smear in Estonia


Articles PDF


Introduction. The only screening methods reducing mortality from breast and cervical cancers are mammography and Pap smear, respectively. Based on the data from the study Health Behavior among Estonian Adult Population 2004, this paper analyses the status of both methods when neither is used in an organized manner in Estonia.
Material and methods. Thus, 5000 individuals (aged 16–64) were randomly chosen from the population register; 1755 women of them completed a questionnaire (response rate 67.7%).
Results. It is recommended to have the first mammogram in the early 40s. Forty-five per cent of the respondents aged 40–64 had taken a mammogram at some timepoint; 44% of the women aged 16–64 and 51% of the women aged 25–64 had taken the Pap smear at least once. The corresponding indicators for the last two years were 32%; 27% and 30%, respectively. As  a mailed questionnaire was used, it was impossible to precisely calculate the number of prophylactic tests and, among them, the number of the tests carried out as part of a pilot screening project.
Discussion. In comparison with the year 2000, more women aged 45–64 had taken a mammogram. However, fewer women aged 16–64, especially the youngest, had taken the Pap smear. Irrespective of age, the women who had taken fewer tests than others over the past two years, as recommended, were rural workers, the unemployed, and those who ignored health behaviour recommendations. The initiative for a mammogram came from women in more cases than not, and from the doctor in the case of the Pap smear. Therefore, the use of the latter was less influenced by socio-economic and health behaviour factors.