OBJECTIVE: To assess the effect of age at initiation and interval of cervical cancer screening in women of reproductive age on the risk of future preterm birth and subsequent adverse neonatal outcome relative to maternal life-years gained and cost of both screening and preterm birth.
METHODS: In this decision and cost-effectiveness analysis, we compared eight cytology-based screening programs varying in age of onset (21, 24, 25, 27, or 30 years) and screening interval (3 or 5 years) in a fictive cohort of 100,000 women. We used the microsimulation screening analysis model to estimate number of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia diagnoses, large loop excisions of the transformation zone (LLETZs), life-years gained, cervical cancer cases, deaths, and costs of screening and treatment. We used the number of LLETZs to calculate additional preterm births, subsequent neonatal morbidity, mortality, and associated costs.
RESULTS: The number of LLETZs per 100,000 women varied from 9,612 for the most intensive screening (every 3 years from age 21 years) to 4,646 for the least intensive screening (every 5 years from age 30 years). Compared with the least intensive program, the most intensive program increased maternal life-years gained by 9% (10,728 compared with 9,839), decreased cervical cancer cases by 67% (52 compared with 158), and cervical cancer deaths by 75% (four compared with 16) at the expense of 250% (158 compared with 45) more preterm births and 320% (four compared with one) more neonatal deaths while increasing total costs by $55 million ($77 compared with $23 million). The number of maternal life-years gained per additional preterm birth varied from 68 to 258 with subsequent total costs per maternal life-years gained of $7,212 and $2,329.
CONCLUSION: Cervical cancer screening every 3 years and subsequent treatment in women aged younger than 30 years yield limited life-years but may have substantial perinatal adverse effects. Consequently, women who plan to have children may benefit from a more cautious screening approach, taking into account their risk for both cancer and preterm birth.