Open Access Open Badges Research article

How protective is cervical cancer screening against cervical cancer mortality in developing countries? The Colombian case

Luz Angela Chocontá-Piraquive1*, Nelson Alvis-Guzman2 and Fernando De la Hoz-Restrepo1

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Department, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia

2 Economic Science Faculty, Universidad de Cartagena, Colombia

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:270  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-270

Published: 16 September 2010



Cervical cancer is one of the top causes of cancer morbidity and mortality in Colombia despite the existence of a national preventive program. Screening coverage with cervical cytology does not explain the lack of success of the program in reducing incidence and mortality rates by cervical cancer. To address this problem an ecological analysis, at department level, was carried out in Colombia to assess the relationship between cervical screening characteristics and cervical cancer mortality rates.


Mortality rates by cervical cancer were estimated at the department level for the period 2000-2005. Levels of mortality rates were compared to cervical screening coverage and other characteristics of the program. A Poisson regression was used to estimate the effect of different dimensions of program performance on mortality by cervical cancer.


Screening coverage ranged from 28.7% to 65.6% by department but increases on this variable were not related to decreases in mortality rates. A significant reduction in mortality was found in departments where a higher proportion of women looked for medical advice when abnormal findings were reported in Pap smears. Geographic areas where a higher proportion of women lack health insurance had higher rates of mortality by cervical cancer.


These results suggest that coverage is not adequate to prevent mortality due to cervical cancer if women with abnormal results are not provided with adequate follow up and treatment. The role of different dimensions of health care such as insurance coverage, quality of care, and barriers for accessing health care needs to be evaluated and addressed in future studies.