Background: Cost estimation is a central feature of health economic analyses. The aim of this study was to use a micro-costing approach and a societal perspective to estimate aggregated costs associated with cervical cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment in rural China.
Methods: We assumed that future screening programs will be organized at a county level (population ~250,000), and related treatments will be performed at county or prefecture hospitals; therefore, this study was conducted in a county and a prefecture hospital in Shanxi during 2008-9. Direct medical costs were estimated by gathering information on quantities and prices of drugs, supplies, equipment and labour. Direct non-medical costs were estimated via structured patient interviews and expert opinion.
Results: Under the base case assumption of a high-volume screening initiative (11,475 women screened annually per county), the aggregated direct medical costs of visual inspection, self-sampled careHPV (Qiagen USA) screening, clinician-sampled careHPV, colposcopy and biopsy were estimated as US$2.64,$7.49,$7.95,$3.90 and $5.76, respectively. Screening costs were robust to screening volume (<5% variation if 2,000 women screened annually), but costs of colposcopy/biopsy tripled at the lower volume. Direct medical costs of Loop Excision, Cold-Knife Conization and Simple and Radical Hysterectomy varied from $61-544, depending on the procedure and whether conducted at county or prefecture level. Direct non-medical expenditure varied from $0.68-$3.09 for screening/diagnosis and $83-$494 for pre-cancer/cancer treatment.
Conclusions: Diagnostic costs were comparable to screening costs for high-volume screening but were greatly increased in lower-volume situations, which is a key consideration for the scale-up phase of new programs. The study's findings will facilitate cost-effectiveness evaluation and budget planning for cervical cancer prevention initiatives in China.