Recovery strategies following COVID-19 disruption to cervical cancer screening and their impact on excess diagnoses.

Affiliation

Castanon A(1), Rebolj M(#)(2), Pesola F(#)(2), Sasieni P(2).
Author information:
(1)King's College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences, London, UK. [Email]
(2)King's College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Sciences, London, UK.
(#)Contributed equally

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted cervical cancer screening services. Assuming increases to screening capacity are unrealistic, we propose two recovery strategies: one extends the screening interval by 6 months for all and the other extends the interval by 36/60 months, but only for women who have already missed being screened. METHODS: Using routine statistics from England we estimate the number of women affected by delays to screening. We used published research to estimate the proportion of screening age women with high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and progression rates to cancer. Under two recovery scenarios, we estimate the impact of COVID-19 on cervical cancer over one screening cycle (3 years at ages 25-49 and 5 years at ages 50-64 years). The duration of disruption in both scenarios is 6 months. In the first scenario, 10.7 million women have their screening interval extended by 6 months. In the second, 1.5 million women (those due to be screened during the disruption) miss one screening cycle, but most women have no delay. RESULTS: Both scenarios result in similar numbers of excess cervical cancers: 630 vs. 632 (both 4.3 per 100,000 women in the population). However, the scenario in which some women miss one screening cycle creates inequalities-they would have much higher rates of excess cancer: 41.5 per 100,000 delayed for screened women compared to those with a 6-month delay (5.9 per 100,000). CONCLUSION: To ensure equity for those affected by COVID-19 related screening delays additional screening capacity will need to be paired with prioritising the screening of overdue women.