Primary screening for cervical cancer precursors has considerably evolved with the introduction of new technology to improve the early detection of disease. The objective of this study was to elaborate a diagnostic pathway integrating liquid-based and computer-assisted cytology and human papillomavirus DNA testing to focus screening on women at risk which may be more cost-effective for the healthcare system. A single laboratory analysis was conducted during a 5-month period using liquid-based cytology followed by human papillomavirus DNA testing for women with an abnormal result or with previous abnormal cytology. Human papillomavirus prevalence was estimated by testing 909 consecutive unselected samples. All slides were then rescreened using automated cytologic testing and triaged into a high- or low-score group according to computer results. Of the 8676 slides scanned, 352 had a test result of atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance or worse. Two hundred and ninety-seven (84.3%) samples with an atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance or worse result and 100% of those with detection of high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions and carcinomas (HSIL+) were triaged into the high-score group. The combination of instrument scores and human papillomavirus results indicated that 51.0% of high score/human papillomavirus-positive cases should be considered as ASCUS+, while 99.6% of low-score/human papillomavirus negative cases remained negative in the final cytologic diagnosis, representing 49.0% of all cases. Of the screened women 89.5% should test negative for human papillomavirus and be reported as such in the final cytologic diagnosis. In conclusion, preliminary results suggest that this diagnostic pathway has the potential to improve primary cervical cancer screening and cost-effectiveness. By using a combination of testing methods to focus screening and clinical attention to cases at risk, it would be possible to lengthen screening intervals for 90% of women and to archive without further review all low-score/human papillomavirus-negative slides, representing 50% of the screening workload.
Copyright 2002 The Cancer Research Campaign