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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

Screening for cervical cancer: when theory meets reality

Mari Nygård

Author Affiliations

Fr. Nansens vei 19, P.O. Box 5313 Majorstuen, N-0304, Oslo, Norway

BMC Cancer 2011, 11:240  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-240

Published: 13 June 2011

Abstract

Cervical cancer screening reduces morbidity and mortality due to cervical cancer. However, there are many factors that determine the success of any cervical cancer prevention effort: the prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in general population, the existence of an organized screening program and the corresponding coverage, the existence and quality of the field and laboratory facilities for screening and diagnostic follow-up, and the facilities available for treating diagnosed lesions. Monitoring the patient path or "chain of action" for each patient with an abnormal screening result is of crucial importance. Cost-effectiveness models are widely used by decision-makers to determine which cervical cancer screening program would maximize health benefits within a given, usually limited, set of resources. Regardless of their level of sophistication, however, these models cannot replace empirical evaluations of the effectiveness of screening programs.

Cervical cancer prevention activities need to be monitored and evaluated in each country where they are introduced to see that they meet performance standards. Policy-makers responsible for allocating resources for cervical cancer prevention have a duty to allocate resources not only for cervical cancer screening, but also for screening program surveillance.