Screen-and-treat approaches for cervical cancer prevention in low-resource settings: a randomized controlled trial

JAMA. 2005 Nov 2;294(17):2173-81. doi: 10.1001/jama.294.17.2173.


Context: Non-cytology-based screen-and-treat approaches for cervical cancer prevention have been developed for low-resource settings, but few have directly addressed efficacy.

Objective: To determine the safety and efficacy of 2 screen-and-treat approaches for cervical cancer prevention that were designed to be more resource-appropriate than conventional cytology-based screening programs.

Design, setting, and patients: Randomized clinical trial of 6555 nonpregnant women, aged 35 to 65 years, recruited through community outreach and conducted between June 2000 and December 2002 at ambulatory women's health clinics in Khayelitsha, South Africa.

Interventions: All patients were screened using human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing and visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA). Women were subsequently randomized to 1 of 3 groups: cryotherapy if she had a positive HPV DNA test result; cryotherapy if she had a positive VIA test result; or to delayed evaluation.

Main outcome measures: Biopsy-confirmed high-grade cervical cancer precursor lesions and cancer at 6 and 12 months in the HPV DNA and VIA groups compared with the delayed evaluation (control) group; complications after cryotherapy.

Results: The prevalence of high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and cancer (CIN 2+) was significantly lower in the 2 screen-and-treat groups at 6 months after randomization than in the delayed evaluation group. At 6 months, CIN 2+ was diagnosed in 0.80% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.40%-1.20%) of the women in the HPV DNA group and 2.23% (95% CI, 1.57%-2.89%) in the VIA group compared with 3.55% (95% CI, 2.71%-4.39%) in the delayed evaluation group (P<.001 and P = .02 for the HPV DNA and VIA groups, respectively). A subset of women underwent a second colposcopy 12 months after enrollment. At 12 months the cumulative detection of CIN 2+ among women in the HPV DNA group was 1.42% (95% CI, 0.88%-1.97%), 2.91% (95% CI, 2.12%-3.69%) in the VIA group, and 5.41% (95% CI, 4.32%-6.50%) in the delayed evaluation group. Although minor complaints, such as discharge and bleeding, were common after cryotherapy, major complications were rare.

Conclusion: Both screen-and-treat approaches are safe and result in a lower prevalence of high-grade cervical cancer precursor lesions compared with delayed evaluation at both 6 and 12 months. Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00233727.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid
  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Colposcopy
  • Cryotherapy*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Health Resources
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Prevalence
  • South Africa
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / prevention & control*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / therapy
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / therapy


  • DNA, Viral
  • Acetic Acid

Associated data