Colposcopy non-attendance following an abnormal cervical cancer screening result: a prospective population-based cohort study

BMC Womens Health. 2022 Jul 9;22(1):285. doi: 10.1186/s12905-022-01851-6.


Background: A considerable proportion of cervical cancer diagnoses in high-income countries are due to lack of timely follow-up of an abnormal screening result. We estimated colposcopy non-attendance, examined the potential factors associated and described non-attendance reasons in a population-based screening study.

Methods: Data from the MARZY prospective cohort study were analysed. Co-test screen-positive women (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance or worse [ASC-US+] or high-risk human papillomavirus [hrHPV] positive) aged 30 to 65 years were referred to colposcopy within two screening rounds (3-year interval). Women were surveyed for sociodemographic, HPV-related and other data, and interviewed for non-attendance reasons. Logistic regression was used to examine potential associations with colposcopy attendance.

Results: At baseline, 2,627 women were screened (screen-positive = 8.7%), and 2,093 again at follow-up (screen-positive = 5.1%; median 2.7 years later). All screen-positives were referred to colposcopy, however 28.9% did not attend despite active recall. Among co-test positives (ASC-US+ and hrHPV) and only hrHPV positives, 19.6% were non-attendees. Half of only ASC-US+ screenees attended colposcopy. Middle age (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.55, 95% CI 1.02, 4.96) and hrHPV positive result (aOR = 3.04, 95% CI 1.49, 7.22) were associated with attendance. Non-attendance was associated with having ≥ 3 children (aOR = 0.32, 95% CI 0.10, 0.86). Major reasons for non-attendance were lack of time, barriers such as travel time, need for childcare arrangements and the advice against colposcopy given by the gynaecologist who conducted screening.

Conclusions: Follow-up rates of abnormal screening results needs improvement. A systematic recall system integrating enhanced communication and addressing follow-up barriers may improve screening effectiveness.

Keywords: Abnormal screening result; Cervical cancer screening; Colposcopy; HPV status; HPV testing; Non-attendance; Screening follow-up.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atypical Squamous Cells of the Cervix*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia* / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colposcopy
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms*
  • Vaginal Smears