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J Med Screen. 2010;17(3):139-46. doi: 10.1258/jms.2010.010033.

Breast and cervical cancer screening programme implementation in 16 countries.

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Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.



There is a continuing need to monitor and evaluate the impact of organized screening programmes on cancer incidence and mortality. We report results from a programme assessment conducted within the International Cancer Screening Network (ICSN) to understand the characteristics of cervical screening programmes within countries that have established population-based breast cancer screening programmes.


In 2007-2008, we asked 26 ICSN country representatives to complete a web-based survey that included questions on breast and cervical cancer screening programmes. We summarized information from 16 countries with both types of organized programmes.


In 63% of these countries, the organization of the cervical cancer screening programme was similar to that of the breast cancer screening programme in the same country. There were differences in programme characteristics, including year established (1962-2003 cervical; 1986-2002 breast) and ages covered (15-70+ cervical; 40-75+ breast). Adoption of new screening technologies was evident (44% liquid-based Pap tests; 13% human papillomavirus (HPV)-triage tests cervical; 56% digital mammography breast). There was wide variation in participation rates for both programme types (<4-80% cervical; 12-88% breast), and participation rates tended to be higher for cervical (70-80%) than for breast (60-70%) cancer screening programmes. Eleven ICSN member countries had approved the HPV vaccine and five more were considering its use in their organized programmes.


Overall, there were similarities and differences in the organization of breast and cervical cancer screening programmes among ICSN countries. This assessment can assist established and new screening programmes in understanding the organization and structure of cancer screening programmes.

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