Background: Introduction of human papillomavirus-based screening is ongoing in many countries, given its higher sensitivity and longer-lasting protection compared with cytology-based screening. However, optimal clinical management of human papillomavirus-positive but cytology-negative women is unclear, and additional studies with clinical follow-up are warranted.
Objective: The aim of the current study was to investigate the long-term outcomes of the clinical management used in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial of human papillomavirus screening conducted in the context of the routine, organized screening program in Sweden.
Study design: Among 12,527 women aged 32-38 years enrolled in the trial, we followed up the 195 women who attended the colposcopy screening who were cytologically normal but persistently human papillomavirus positive (at least 12 months later; median, 19 months) in the human papillomavirus testing arm (n = 100) or were randomly selected from the control arm (n = 95). Women in the human papillomavirus testing arm were followed up with repeated human papillomavirus testing, cytologies, and colposcopies if persistently human papillomavirus-positive without cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse. A similar number of random colposcopies and tests were carried out in the control arm. Women were followed up over 13 years for the main outcome measures: cumulative incidence of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 or worse.
Results: Among women who continued to attend and had continuous human papillomavirus persistence, all (40 of 40, 100% [95% confidence interval, 91-100%]) developed cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse. There were no cases among women who cleared their human papillomavirus persistence (0 of 35, 0% (95% confidence interval, 0-10%) (P < .001). Among women who had had human papillomavirus persistence but did not continue with repeated human papillomavirus tests (unknown persistence status), 56% (15 of 27 women) developed cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse. Almost all cases occurred within 6 years. The intensive clinical management in the trial appeared to result in diagnoses of earlier cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse but apparently did not prevent cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse.
Conclusion: Women with human papillomavirus persistence will, in general, either become human papillomavirus negative or develop cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or worse within 6 years, even with intensive clinical follow-up.
Keywords: cervical intraepithelial neoplasia; colposcopy; human papillomavirus; long term-follow-up; randomized clinical trial.
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