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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Mar;13(3):346-54.

A large population-based randomized controlled trial to increase attendance at screening for cervical cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Sonja.Eaker@med.ki.se



Although cervical cancer is one of the potentially most preventable malignancies, it is still fairly common. In settings with established screening programs, increased compliance is important for future reduction in cervical cancer incidence, but it is presently unclear how this can be effectively achieved.


We conducted a randomized controlled trial including all 12,240 women invited to organized screening in Sweden. To increase compliance, three successive interventions were tested: (a) modified invitation versus the standard invitation letter, (b) reminder letter to nonattenders after the first intervention versus no reminder letter, and (c) phone reminder to nonattenders after the reminder letter versus no phone reminder. We analyzed the proportion of women attending screening after each intervention and the cumulative proportion after the interventions as well as the cumulative proportions of cytologic abnormalities.


The modified invitation did not increase attendance compared with the standard invitation letter [difference 1.3% 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.3 to 2.9]. In contrast, a reminder letter increased the proportion of women attending with 9.2% (95% CI 7.9-10.5) compared with women who did not receive a reminder letter, and a phone reminder increased the proportion of women attending with 31.4% (95% CI 26.9-35.9). Combinations of modified invitation, written reminder, and phone reminder almost doubled attendance within 12 months, and the number of detected cytologic abnormalities was more than tripled.


Simple reminders by mail and phone can drastically increase women's participation in Papanicolaou smear screening and increase the number of detected precursor lesions and thereby save lives.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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