Cervical cancer screening with both human papillomavirus and Papanicolaou testing vs Papanicolaou testing alone: what screening intervals are physicians recommending?

Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jun 14;170(11):977-85. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.134.


Background: Guidelines recommend screening for cervical cancer among women 30 years or older 3 years after a normal Papanicolaou test (hereinafter referred to as Pap test) result or a combined normal screening result (normal Pap/negative human papillomavirus [HPV] test results). We assessed reported recommendations by US primary care physicians (PCPs) on screening intervals that incorporate HPV cotesting compared with Pap testing alone.

Methods: From September 1, 2006, through May 31, 2007, we conducted a mailed survey of a representative sample of 1212 PCPs, of whom 950 performed Pap tests and recommended the HPV test for screening or management. The main outcome measure included self-reported data on timing of screening intervals for women with normal results using clinical vignettes.

Results: Among Pap test providers who recommend HPV testing, 31.8% reported that they would conduct the next Pap test in 3 years for a 35-year-old woman with 3 normal Pap test results. For a 35-year-old woman with a normal Pap test result and a negative HPV test finding, only 19.0% would conduct the next Pap test in 3 years. Most remaining physicians would conduct the Pap test more frequently. Most PCPs did not recommend a second HPV test or recommended the next HPV test at the same frequency as the Pap test. Physician specialty was strongly associated with guideline-consistent recommendations for the next Pap or HPV test.

Conclusions: A lower proportion of PCPs recommend extending screening intervals to 3 years with an HPV cotest than those screening with the Pap test alone. Implementation of effective interventions and strategies that improve physician adherence to recommendations will be important for efficient screening practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Patient Compliance
  • Physician's Role*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Virus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology
  • Vaginal Smears / methods*