BACKGROUND: This study aimed to determine women's knowledge of their Pap test results and predictors of accurate knowledge, adherence to follow-up recommendations for abnormal results, current methods of notifying women about their Pap test results, women's preferences for notification method, and women's satisfaction with the current notification system. METHOD: A telephone survey was undertaken of 315 women with a recent normal or abnormal Pap test result, drawn from pathology records in Sydney, Australia. RESULTS: Findings revealed that 61% of women with a normal result and 93% of women with an abnormal result self reported having been notified about their result. According to women's reports, 7% of those with abnormal results had not been notified and a further 11% of women with abnormal results were unaware that their result was abnormal, giving a total of 18% of abnormal results not communicated adequately to women. Self-reported adherence with follow-up recommendations among women with an abnormal result was less than optimal. The most common methods of notifying women of their results were initiated by the women such as the woman phoning the doctor or receptionist. However, women strongly preferred doctor-initiated methods, such as a written record from the doctor, the doctor phoning the woman, or consultation with the doctor. CONCLUSION: Results suggest that better methods of notifying and educating women about their Pap test results are necessary to improve women's knowledge and satisfaction and, even more importantly, to improve their level of adherence with follow-up recommendations for abnormal results.