Disruptions to cervical screening during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Diagnostic follow-up and surveillance activities have been disrupted too, delaying investigation for individuals known to be at high risk. Photo: Pexels

(The Lancet) — Disruptions to cancer screening services have been experienced in most settings as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ideally, programmes would resolve backlogs by temporarily expanding capacity; however, in practice, this is often not possible.

We aim to inform the deliberations of decision makers in high-income settings regarding their cervical cancer screening policy response. We caution against performance measures that rely solely on restoring testing volumes to pre-pandemic levels because they will be less effective at mitigating excess cancer diagnoses than will targeted measures.

These measures might exacerbate pre-existing inequalities in accessing cervical screening by disregarding the risk profile of the individuals attending. Modelling of cervical screening outcomes before and during the pandemic supports risk-based strategies as the most effective way for screening services to recover. (…)

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