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Cervical cancer screening recommendations vary by age and risk

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USPSTF needs to consider cost effectiveness

In 2016, the Society for Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) recommended screening with the newly approved hrHPV test for women aged 25 years and older, with rescreening 3 years later if the test was negative, George F. Sawaya, MD, wrote in an accompanying editorial published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force do not endorse a single triage strategy, and do not consider costs, he said.

“Although the USPSTF sets the standard for evidence-based recommendations and acknowledges the critical value of high-quality evidence in making recommendations, it might reasonably be asked, where is the evidence of value in cervical cancer screening?” Dr. Sawaya wrote.

The updated USPSTF recommendations differ from the SGO recommendation by changing the starting age for hrHPV testing to 30 years from 25, and rescreening at 5-year intervals.

“The USPSTF recommendation that HPV testing not begin until age 30 years seems prudent,” Dr. Sawaya said, in light of the evidence report and modeling analysis of harms and benefits. He noted that the evidence reviewed by the task force showed that HPV testing and cotesting resulting in a small amount of life-years gained compared with no testing, but with the trade-off of more follow-up tests and colposcopies.

“From the perspective of society, it has been proposed that cost-effectiveness analyses be an essential part of the guideline process,” Dr. Sawaya noted. “To assist in policy decisions that many professional societies will soon face, a study that I am leading is seeking to use cost-effectiveness analyses to determine the range of reasonable options for cervical cancer screening. Such analyses may inform future screening recommendations.”

Dr. Sawaya is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. These comments are taken from an editorial accompanying USPSTF recommendations on cervical cancer screening (JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4282). He disclosed serving as the principal investigator of a National Cancer Institute study on cost-effectiveness analyses to determine reasonable options for cervical cancer screening. He also served as a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force from 2004 to 2008.



Screen women for cervical cancer with basic cytology starting at age 21 years, and consider adding high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing alone or with cytology for women aged 30 years and older, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended in an updated statement on cervical cancer screening .

The statement, accompanying evidence report, and a modeling study were published online in JAMA.

Cervical cancer deaths in the United States have declined from 2.8 deaths per 100,000 women in 2000 to 2.3 deaths per 100,000 women in 2015 because of the adoption of widespread screening, according to Susan J. Curry, PhD., of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and her colleagues in the USPSTF (JAMA. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.10897.

Based on the latest evidence and the modeling study, the USPSTF gives an A recommendation to screening women aged 21-29 years for cervical cancer every 3 years with cervical cytology alone. The task force also gives an A to screening women aged 30-65 years every 5 years with either hrHPV testing alone or in combination with cytology.

The task force recommends against screening (D recommendation) for women younger than 21 years, older than 65 years with a history of screening and low cervical cancer risk, and women who have had hysterectomies with removal of the cervix and no history of cervical cancer risk.

To update the previous recommendations issued in 2012, the task force reviewed the latest evidence and commissioned a modeling study to help determine the best screening strategies in terms of age, screening intervals, and risks vs. benefits.

In the model, researchers assessed 19 strategies for cervical cancer screening based on a hypothetical cohort of women who began screening at 21 years of age.

Overall, the different strategies were similar in effectiveness, but primary hrHPV testing and alternative cotesting were slightly more effective: Cervical cancer deaths ranged from 0.23 to 0.29 deaths per 1,000 women in strategies involving hrHPV testing or cotesting, vs. 0.30 to 0.76 deaths per 1,000 women for strategies based on the current guidelines.

In addition, switching the age of hrHPV testing from 25 years to 30 years and using a 5-year screening interval showed the most effectiveness in terms of risks vs. harms, wrote Jane K. Kim, PhD, of Harvard University, Boston, and her colleagues (JAMA. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.19872). “Switching from cytology to 5-year primary hrHPV testing at age 30 years (strategy 14) was associated with a ratio of 640 colposcopies per cancer case averted; earlier switch ages required a greater number of colposcopies per cancer case averted.”

The recommendations also were supported by an evidence report including eight randomized, controlled trials of 410,556 women, five cohort studies of 402,615 women, and a meta-analysis of individual participant data including 176,464 women.

The evidence report sought to address the benefits and harms of cervical cancer screening using hrHPV screening alone as the primary screening method or paired with cytology (cotesting), compared with primary screening using cytology alone.

Overall, both hrHPV and hrHPV plus cytology were associated with higher rates of false-positives and colposcopy compared with cytology alone, “which could lead to more treatments with potential harms,” wrote Joy Melnikow, MD, of the University of California, Davis, and her colleagues (JAMA. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.10400.

In addition, hrHPV testing yielded higher rates of positive cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, compared with cytology alone as initial screening.

However, further research is needed to address the impact of any cervical cancer screening strategies in populations with limited access to health care and screening, the researchers noted.

The updated USPSTF recommendations are largely in line with those issued by leading women’s health organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ASCCP, and the Society for Gynecologic Oncology, according to a joint statement.

“With a number of screening options now available, the new guidelines emphasize the importance of the patient-provider shared decision-making process to assist women in making an informed choice about which screening method is most suitable for them,” according to the statement, “However, more importantly, there needs to be a continued effort to ensure all women are adequately screened because a significant number of women in the country are not. It’s also essential for women to have access to all of the tests and that they are appropriately covered by insurance companies.

“We hope the USPSTF recommendations foster more discussions between patients and providers about cervical cancer screening, promote opportunities for patient education on the benefits and safety of HPV vaccination for cervical cancer prevention and encourage providers to offer HPV vaccines in their offices,” the statement noted.

The USPSTF research was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The researchers for the modeling report were supported in part by a National Cancer Institute grant. The researchers had no relevant financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCES: Kim J et al. JAMA. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.19872; Melnikow J et al. JAMA. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.10400; Curry S et al. JAMA. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.10897.

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