This paper was published as Social Science and Medicine, 2008, 67 (7), pp.1074-1082. It is available from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/02779536. Doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.06.022Metadata only entryIn line with the increasing emphasis on informed choice, women invited for cervical cancer screening in England receive a leaflet containing information on the risk factors and causation of the condition. However, data from a qualitative interview study with 35 women suggest that the ways in which women make sense of this information can vary and frequently do not correspond to the causal pathways and explanations which characterise contemporary professional medical explanations. This paper examines the complex interplay between lay and professional understandings that takes place as women attempt to weave the information they receive, their prior understandings and contextual factors together into some kind of coherent framework, in which each piece of information makes sense in relation to everything else. We conclude by arguing that, while presenting full and accurate information about orthodox medical understandings of cervical cancer causation in an accessible way maybe challenging, partial presentation of ‘the facts’ is likely to be ineffective
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