Comparison of Papanicolaou Test With Visual Detection Tests in Screening for Cervical Cancer and Developing the Optimal Strategy for Low Resource Settings

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Objectives:To compare the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and accuracy of Papanicolaou test with visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA)/VIA using magnification devices (VIAM) and develop the best strategy for screening in low resource settings.Materials and Methods:This is a prospective cross-sectional study on 408 symptomatic multiparous women in the reproductive age group, sequentially using the Papanicolaou test, the VIA, and the VIAM for screening. Women with a positive screening test underwent guided biopsy and endocervical curettage. The site of biopsy was recorded. Histopathological findings were taken as the "gold" standard in comparing the methods.Results:The mean (SD) age was 32.3 (6.8) years (range, 15-49 years), whereas the mean (SD) parity was 2.9 (1.2) (range, 1-9). Abnormal cytological findings were detected in 2.9% patients, whereas the remaining smears were negative for any intraepithelial lesion or malignancy. A total of 113 cases were screened positive by one/all methods. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, and accuracy of the Papanicolaou test, the VIA, and the VIAM were 24, 98, 42, 96, and 94%; 95, 78, 19, 99, and 79%; and 95, 78, 19, 99, and 79%, respectively, for high-grade lesions.Conclusions:The Papanicolaou test had low sensitivity but high specificity, whereas visual detection methods had a high sensitivity in addition to being cheaper. Alternative methods of screening such as VIA/VIAM can be a valuable alternative to the Papanicolaou test for cervical cancer screening in low resource settings. Visual inspection using magnification devices may be of benefit over VIA in doubtful cases.

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