Introduction of molecular HPV testing as the primary technology in cervical cancer screening: Acting on evidence to change the current paradigm
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Since being introduced in the 1940s, cervical cytology - despite its limitations - has had unequivocal success in reducing cervical cancer burden in many countries. However, we now know that infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is a necessary cause of cervical cancer and there is overwhelming evidence from large-scale clinical trials, feasibility studies and real-world experience that supports the introduction of molecular testing for HPV as the primary technology in cervical cancer screening (i.e., "HPV primary screening"). While questions remain about the most appropriate age groups for screening, screening interval and triage approach, these should not be considered barriers to implementation. Many countries are in various stages of adopting HPV primary screening, whereas others have not taken any major steps towards introduction of this approach. As a group of clinical experts and researchers in cervical cancer prevention from across Canada, we have jointly authored this comprehensive examination of the evidence to implement HPV primary screening. Our intention is to create a common understanding among policy makers, agencies, clinicians, researchers and other stakeholders about the evidence concerning HPV primary screening to catalyze the adoption of this improved approach to cervical cancer prevention. With the first cohort of vaccinated girls now turning 21, the age when routine screening typically begins, there is increased urgency to introduce HPV primary screening, whose performance may be less adversely affected compared with cervical cytology as a consequence of reduced lesion prevalence post-vaccination.
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