Performance characteristics of visualising the cervix in symptomatic young females: a review of primary care records in females with and without cervical cancer
British Journal of General Practice
Royal College of General Practitioners
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Under indefinite embargo due to publisher policy. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
BACKGROUND: The current strategy for timely detection of cervical cancer in young females centres on visualising the cervix when females present with gynaecological symptoms, but is based on expert opinion without an evidence base. AIM: To assess visualising the cervix in primary care in young females with gynaecological symptoms. DESIGN AND SETTING: A review of primary care records for females in England aged 20-29 years with cervical cancer (nationwide interview-based study) and in the general population (Clinical Practice Research Datalink database). METHOD: From primary care records the proportion of females was identified with gynaecological symptoms who had documented cervical examination in the year before diagnosis (cancers) and in 1-year age bands (general population). Of these, the proportion was identified that was then referred for suspected malignancy. RESULTS: Only 39% of young females with cervical cancer had documented examination at symptomatic presentation. Visualisation resulted in referral for suspected malignancy for 18% of those examined (95% confidence interval = 5% to 40%). Very few (<1.7%) symptomatic females in the general population had documented cervical examination. None were referred for suspected malignancy at the time. CONCLUSION: The sensitivity of cervical examination to detect cancer is very low, highlighting the need for better triage tools for primary care. Until such tools are identified GPs should continue to consider cervical cancer when symptoms persist and the cervix is not obviously abnormal on clinical examination. Further research on additional triage tools such as cervical cytology used as a diagnostic aid is needed urgently.
This work was supported by Cancer Research UK [C8162/A16892].
This is the final version of the article. Available from Royal College of General Practitioners via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 66 (644), pp. e189 - e192
Place of publication