An Australian study analysed data from the first two years of the renewed National Cervical Screening Program which transitioned from Pap testing to primary human papillomavirus (HPV) cervical screening in December 2017.
The study looked at participants screening in the renewed program and found that women with HPV 16 or 18 in the first round of HPV screening were found to be at higher risk of cervical cancer, even in a previously well screened population. HPV 16 or 18 are high-risk types known to significantly increase the risk of cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women.
Women with HPV types not 16 or 18 and negative or low-grade cytology showed a low risk of serious abnormalities but constituted most referrals. The study found these women could be managed safely with two rounds of repeat HPV testing rather than one. The authors recommended that colposcopy referral thresholds should therefore consider underlying cancer risk.
The study analysed program data from the National Cancer Screening Register and the results of the study were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) by Associate Prof Megan Smith and colleagues.
Professor Dorota Gertig, Medical Director, National Cancer Screening Register at Telstra Health and a co-author on the study had this to say about the study: “The NCSR is proud to have provided high quality data for this important study. Australia was one of the first countries to switch from Pap testing to primary HPV screening and was the first to introduce HPV vaccination at a population level. Having national digital infrastructure to support cancer screening programs places Australia in a strong position to provide international evidence on the impact of screening.”
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