Trends in Cervical Cancer Screening in California's Family Planning Program

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Abstract

Objective

Guidelines recommend 3-year cervical cancer screening intervals to avoid unnecessary invasive procedures; however, regular testing remains critical. We evaluated trends in cervical cancer screening among low-income women receiving family planning–related services and their association with patient and provider characteristics.

Materials and Methods

Using claims and enrollment data from California's publicly funded family planning program, we identified 540,026 women with a clinician visit at 216 sites between 2011 and 2015. We calculated guideline adherent cervical cancer testing rates for 6-month periods among women aged 21 to 24, 25 to 29, and 30 to 64 years. We also calculated guideline adherent chlamydia testing for women aged 21 to 24 years.

Results

Having a 3-year cervical cancer screening test declined for all age groups. The odds of cervical cancer screening declined for women aged 21 to 24 years by an estimated 11% every 6 months (odds ratio [OR] = 0.90, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.89–0.90), a significantly greater decline than for the other age groups. Among women aged 21 to 29 years, the decrease was significantly larger for Latina (ratio of ORs = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.95–0.96) and Spanish-speaking (ratio of ORs = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.95–0.96) women compared with non-Latina and non-Spanish–speaking women. A smaller decline was seen for chlamydia screening.

Conclusions

Changes in screening interval guidelines are associated with overall decreased screening. This trend was strongest among women aged 21 to 24 years, even as they continued to be screened appropriately for chlamydia, suggesting many missed opportunities. Efforts to reduce unnecessary cervical cancer screening should be monitored to maintain appropriate screening rates to avoid advanced-stage diagnoses and higher health care costs.

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