PloS one 2018 02 1413(2) e0185332 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0185332
Many countries are transitioning from cytology-based to longer-interval HPV screening. Trials comparing HPV-based screening to cytology report an increase in CIN2/3 detection at the first screen, and longer-term reductions in CIN3+; however, population level year-to-year transitional impacts are poorly understood. We undertook a comprehensive evaluation of switching to longer-interval primary HPV screening in the context of HPV vaccination. We used Australia as an example setting, since Australia will make this transition in December 2017.
Using a model of HPV vaccination, transmission, natural history and cervical screening, Policy1-Cervix, we simulated the planned transition from recommending cytology every two years for sexually-active women aged 18-20 to 69, to recommending HPV screening every five years for women aged 25-74 years. We estimated rates of CIN2/3, cervical cancer incidence, and mortality for each year from 2005 to 2035, considering ranges for HPV test accuracy and screening compliance in the context of HPV vaccination (current coverage ~82% in females; ~76% in males).
Transient increases are predicted to occur in rates of CIN2/3 detection and invasive cervical cancer in the first two to three years following the screening transition (of 16-24% and 11-14% in respectively, compared to 2017 rates). However, by 2035, CIN2/3 and invasive cervical cancer rates are predicted to fall by 40-44% and 42-51%, respectively, compared to 2017 rates. Cervical cancer mortality rates are predicted to remain unchanged until ~2020, then decline by 34-45% by 2035. Over the period 2018-2035, switching to primary HPV screening in Australia is expected to avert 2,006 cases of invasive cervical cancer and save 587 lives.
Transient increases in detected CIN2/3 and invasive cancer, which may be detectable at the population level, are predicted following a change to primary HPV screening. This is due to improved test sensitivity bringing forward diagnoses, resulting in longer term reductions in both cervical cancer incidence and mortality. Fluctuations in health outcomes due to the transition to a longer screening interval are predicted to occur for 10-15 years, but cervical cancer rates will be significantly reduced thereafter due to the impact of HPV vaccination and HPV screening. In order to maintain confidence in primary HPV screening through the transitional phase, it is important to widely communicate that an initial increase in CIN2/3 and perhaps even invasive cervical cancer is expected after a national transition to primary HPV screening, that this phenomenon is due to increased prevalent disease detection, and that this effect represents a marker of screening success.