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How follow-up rates in cervical cancer screening depend on organizational factors: A comparison of two population-based organized screening programmes.

OBJECTIVES: This study compares the follow-up rates of non-normal cervical screening samples between Denmark and Flanders (Belgium) to illuminate whether organizational differences between the health systems might affect the follow-up rates, e.g. sending of reminders in Denmark since 2012 compared to Flanders with no such system in place.

METHODS: The study population included 48,082 Danish women and 22,271 Flemish women who received abnormal or inadequate primary screening results from 2014 to 2016. The participants were followed for 24 months, and the timeliness and appropriateness of the recommended follow-up, according to national guidelines, were evaluated.

RESULTS: After 18 months over 90% of the Danish women had received some form of follow-up, while in Flanders, this level is achieved only for those who test positive for human papillomavirus. The analysis also revealed that 10-28% of follow-ups were performed too early, with Danish women showing the highest proportions. In both regions, general practitioners (GPs) exhibited better follow-up rates compared to gynaecologists, with gynaecologists displaying a tendency towards earlier re-testing than recommended.

CONCLUSIONS: An important factor influencing the follow-up rate may be the sending of reminders in Denmark since 2012, as the follow-up rates in general were higher in this period. It is noteworthy that a reminder system is currently being implemented in Flanders and further studies on the potential effects should be studied. Additionally, the organization of the health system might influence the follow-up rate, as engaging the GP for screening in Denmark may have had a positive effect.

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