Cervical cancer screening programs are facing a programmatic shift where screening protocol based on human papillomavirus testing (HPV-Screening protocol) is replacing the liquid-based cytology (LBC-Screening protocol). For safe technology transfer within the nationwide screening programme in Norway, HPV-Screening protocol was implemented randomized to compare the real-world effectiveness of HPV-Screening protocol and LBC-Screening protocol at the first screening round.
Among 302,295 women ages 34 to 69 years scheduled to attend screening from February 2015 to June 2017, 157,447 attended. A total of 77,207 were randomly allocated to the HPV-Screening protocol and 80,240 were allocated to the LBC-Screening protocol. All women were followed up for 18 months.
The HPV-Screening protocol resulted in a relative increase of 60% in the detection of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grade 2 or worse [risk ratio (RR) = 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.5–1.7], 40% in CIN grade 3 or worse (RR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.3–1.6), 40% in cancer (RR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.0–2.1), and 60% in colposcopy referrals (RR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.5–1.6) compared with LBC-Screening. The performance of both protocols was age dependent, being more effective in women ages under 50 years.
The HPV-Screening protocol was well accepted by women in Norway and detected more CIN2, CIN3, and cancers compared with the LBC-Screening protocol.
A randomized implementation of the HPV-Screening protocol with real-world assessment enabled a gradual, quality assured, and safe technology transition. HPV-based screening protocol may further be improved by using HPV genotyping and age-specific referral algorithms.