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Regional and country-level trends in cervical cancer screening coverage in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic analysis of population-based surveys (2000-2020).

PLoS Medicine 2023 January 13
BACKGROUND: Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has the highest cervical cancer (CC) burden globally-worsened by its HIV epidemics. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a CC elimination strategy with goals for vaccination, screening, and treatment. To benchmark progress, we examined temporal trends in screening coverage, percent screened at least twice by the age of 45, screening coverage among women living with HIV (WLHIV), and pre-cancer treatment coverage in SSA.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: We conducted a systematic analysis of cross-sectional population-based surveys. It included 52 surveys from 28 countries (2000 to 2020) with information on CC screening among women aged 25 to 49 years (N = 151,338 women). We estimated lifetime and past 3-year screening coverage by age, year, country, and HIV serostatus using a Bayesian multilevel model. Post-stratification and imputations were done to obtain aggregate national, regional, and SSA-level estimates. To measure re-screening by age 45, a life table model was developed. Finally, self-reported pre-cancer treatment coverage was pooled across surveys using a Bayesian meta-analysis. Overall, an estimated 14% (95% credible intervals [95% CrI]: 11% to 21%) of women aged 30 to 49 years had ever been screened for CC in 2020, with important regional and country-level differences. In Eastern and Western/Central Africa, regional screening coverages remained constant from 2000 to 2020 and WLHIV had greater odds of being screened compared to women without HIV. In Southern Africa, however, screening coverages increased and WLHIV had equal odds of screening. Notably this region was found to have higher screening coverage in comparison to other African regions. Rescreening rates were high among women who have already been screened; however, it was estimated that only 12% (95% CrI: 10% to 18%) of women had been screened twice or more by age 45 in 2020. Finally, treatment coverage among 4 countries with data was 84% (95% CrI: 70% to 95%). Limitations of our analyses include the paucity of data on screening modality and the few countries that had multiple surveys.

CONCLUSION: Overall, CC screening coverage remains sub-optimal and did not improve much over the last 2 decades, outside of Southern Africa. Action is needed to increase screening coverage if CC elimination is to be achieved.

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