Liquid-based cytology in cervical screening: an updated rapid and systematic review and economic analysis

J Karnon, J Peters, J. Platt, J Chilcott, E McGoogan, N Brewer

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To update an earlier published report reviewing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of liquid-based cytology (LBC).

Electronic bibliographic databases, relevant articles, sponsor submissions and various health services research-related resources.

The selected data were reviewed and assessed with respect to the quality of the evidence. Pooled estimates of the parameters of interest were derived from the original and the updated studies. Meta-analyses were undertaken where appropriate. The mathematical model developed for the original rapid review of LBC was adapted to synthesise the updated data to estimate costs, survival and quality-adjusted survival of patients tested using LBC and using Papanicolaou (Pap) smear testing. Cost data from published sources were incorporated into the above model to allow economic, as well as clinical, implications of treatment to be assessed. The primary incremental cost-effectiveness ratio is the cost per life year gained (LYG), although estimates of the cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained are also presented. A sensitivity analysis was undertaken to identify the key parameters that determine the cost-effectiveness of the treatments, with the objective of identifying how robust the results of the economic analysis are, given the current level of evidence.

From the evidence available, it is likely that the LBC technique will reduce the number of false-negative test results. Modelling analyses undertaken as part of this study indicate that this would reduce the incidence of invasive cancer. There is now more evidence to support improvements emanating from the use of LBC screening in terms of a reduced number of unsatisfactory specimens and a decrease in the time needed to obtain the smear samples. The estimated annual gross cost of consumables and operating equipment, and other one-off conversion costs associated with introducing the new technique, will be between 17 British pounds and 38 British pounds million in England and Wales, depending on the LBC system and the configuration of the service. Analyses based on models of disease natural history, conducted in this study, showed that conventional Pap smear screening was extendedly dominated by LBC (LBC was always more cost-effective than conventional Pap smear testing over the same screening interval). Comparing LBC across alternative screening intervals gave a cost-effectiveness of under 10,000 British pounds per LYG when screening was undertaken every 3 years. The cost-effectiveness results were relatively stable under most conditions, although if screening outcomes such as borderline results and colposcopy are assumed to induce even small amounts of disutility then LBC screening at 5-yearly intervals may be the most cost-effective option.

This updated analysis provides more certainty with regard to the potential cost-effectiveness of LBC compared with conventional Pap smear testing. However, there is uncertainty regarding the relative effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of the two main LBC techniques. Further research in the area of utility assessment may be worthwhile and possibly a full cost-effectiveness study of LBC based on a trial of its introduction in a low-prevalence population, although the results of the modelling analysis provide a robust argument that LBC is a cost-effective alternative to conventional cervical cancer screening. A randomised comparison of the two main techniques may also be useful.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages96
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • cervical screening
  • literature review
  • liquid-based cytology


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