Managing atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance in Papanicolaou smears

C Morin, I Bairati, C Bouchard, M Fortier, M Roy, L Moore, A Meisels
Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2001, 46 (9): 799-805

OBJECTIVE: To assess strategies using repeated conventional Pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing, alone or in combination, for identifying women with concomitant cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 and 3 (CIN 2/3) in women with atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS) in their Pap smears.

STUDY DESIGN: A total of 360 women cytologically diagnosed with ASCUS were referred for colposcopy and underwent a repeat Pap smear, a biopsy when necessary and HPV testing using three different modes of detection of high-oncogenic-risk HPV types: 1, first-generation Hybrid Capture test (HC-1) (Digene Diagnostics, Gaithersburg, Maryland); 2, second-generation Hybrid Capture test (HC-2); and 3, polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

RESULTS: Nineteen patients (5.3%) had histologic CIN 2/3. The sensitivity and specificity of the repeat Pap smear alone for the detection of CIN 2/3 were 73.7% and 62.9%, respectively, when referring all women with a repeat Pap smear using an ASCUS-positive threshold. The proportion of women referred for colposcopy was 39.0%. When HPV testing for high risk was used for identification of women with histologic CIN 2/3, sensitivity and specificity were, respectively, 68.4% and 85.9% for HC-1, 89.5% and 73.9% for HC-2 and 89.5% and 59.0% for PCR. The rate of referral for colposcopy of these three modes of HPV testing was 16.9%, 29.4% and 44.0%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity for identification of women with concomitant CIN 2/3 using a combination of repeat cytology showing a low grade squamous intraepithelial lesion or high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion and/or a test positive for high-oncogenic-risk HPV group were, respectively, 94.7% and 73.2% when used in combination with HC-2. The referral rate of women for colposcopy of this combined strategy was 30.4%.

CONCLUSION: As compared to the strategy using abnormal repeat Pap smear alone, those using high-risk HPV testing with Hybrid Capture showed statistically significantly higher specificities and lower proportions of women with ASCUS referred for colposcopy. In particular, a promising strategy would be to refer for colposcopy only women with repeat Pap smears showing squamous intraepithelial lesion and/or those positive for high-risk HPV detected by Hybrid Capture testing.

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