Cervical cancer screening outcomes in Zambia, 2010-19: a cohort study

Lancet Glob Health. 2021 Jun;9(6):e832-e840. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00062-0.


Background: Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Poor uptake of screening services contributes to the high mortality. We aimed to examine screening frequency, predictors of screening results, and patterns of sensitisation strategies by age group in a large, programmatic cohort.

Methods: We did a cohort study including 11 government health facilities in Lusaka, Zambia, in which we reviewed routine programmatic data collected through the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia (CCPPZ). Participants who underwent cervical cancer screening in one of the participating study sites were considered for study inclusion if they had a screening result. Follow-up was accomplished per national guidelines. We did descriptive analyses and mixed-effects logistic regression for cervical cancer screening results allowing random effects at the individual and clinic level.

Findings: Between Jan 1, 2010, and July 31, 2019, we included 183 165 women with 204 225 results for visual inspection with acetic acid and digital cervicography (VIAC) in the analysis. Of all those screened, 21 326 (10·4%) were VIAC-positive, of whom 16 244 (76·2%) received treatment. Of 204 225 screenings, 92 838 (45·5%) were in women who were HIV-negative, 76 607 (37·5%) were in women who were HIV-positive, and 34 780 (17·0%) had an unknown HIV status. Screening frequency increased 65·7% between 2010 and 2019 with most appointments being first-time screenings (n=158 940 [77·8%]). Women with HIV were more likely to test VIAC-positive than women who were HIV-negative (adjusted odds ratio 3·60, 95% CI 2·14-6·08). Younger women (≤29 years) with HIV had the highest predictive probability (18·6%, 95% CI 14·2-22·9) of screening positive.

Interpretation: CCPPZ has effectively increased women's engagement in screening since its inception in 2006. Customised sensitisation strategies relevant to different age groups could increase uptake and adherence to screening. The high proportion of screen positivity in women younger than 20 years with HIV requires further consideration. Our data are not able to discern if women with HIV have earlier disease onset or whether this difference reflects misclassification of disease in an age group with a higher sexually transmitted infection prevalence. These data inform scale-up efforts required to achieve WHO elimination targets.

Funding: US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Young Adult
  • Zambia / epidemiology