Home-Based HPV Cervical Cancer Screening 'Cost-Effective'

Liam Davenport

March 22, 2023

For women who are overdue for cervical cancer screening, mailing self-sampling kits for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is a cost-effective means of increasing screening uptake, reveals an analysis of a large US trial.

The finding comes from a randomized trial in almost 20,000 women, which compared women who received a mailed HPV testing kit with those who did not. The results show that mailing was most cost-effective in women aged 50-64 years and in those who were only recently overdue for cervical screening.

The study was published by JAMA Network Open on March 22.

"These results support mailing HPV kits as an efficient outreach strategy for increasing screening rates in US health care systems," say the authors, led by Rachel L. Winer, PhD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington.

They note that their results are consistent with those from previous studies in other healthcare contexts, but their analysis "benefitted from the randomized clinical trial design and a large sample size," they write.

However, they point out that the trial was conducted "before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic," and it is "well established" that cancer screening rates "decreased substantially during the pandemic."

They suggest that mailed HPV self-sampling kits could nevertheless be a "means of overcoming screening barriers among underscreened women," which may have been exacerbated by the "societal consequences of the pandemic."

Reducing Barriers to Screening

Cervical screening is associated with "substantial global reductions" in the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer, the authors point out. Because most cases of the disease are consequently preventable, it now occurs "predominantly in individuals who have never or rarely received screening."

Home-based HPV-only testing reduces the need for office visits and reduces barriers to screening, such as discomfort, embarrassment, and difficulties with scheduling or attending appointments.

Previous studies have shown that the direct mailing of home-based HPV self-collection kits is associated with increased uptake of screening among underscreened women and is cost-effective, although the researchers point out that these previous studies were conducted in countries with "organized national screening programs."

For their own study, they focused on home-based HPV screening among underscreened individuals in the US. The team examined data from the Home-based Options to Make cervical cancer screening Easy trial, which has previously showed that mailing kits to women increased screening uptake compared with usual care alone.

For the current analysis, they conducted an economic evaluation of data on 19,851 trial participants, who were randomized to receive home-based screening or usual care between February 2014 and August 2016 and were followed up to February 2018.

All of the women were aged 30-64 years and had been enrolled in a health plan from Kaiser Permanente Washington (KPW) for at least 3 years and 5 months. They were also required not have undergone a hysterectomy.

Participant-level economic data were collected between June 2019 and March 2021, with intervention delivery costs calculated from the perspective of both the KPW and Medicare health systems and based on the cost of a either wellness visit or Papanicolaou (Pap) test–only visit.

The mean age of the participants was 50.1 years, and the majority (76.7%) were White; 9.7% were Asian and 4.7% were Black or African American.

There were no significant differences in baseline characteristics between the group assigned to usual care, which comprised patient reminders and ad hoc screening outreach, and those in the intervention group, who received usual care and a mailed HPV self-sampling kit.

The researchers report that 1206 women in the intervention group sent back a mailed HPV kit, with 1178 (97.7%) meeting the criteria for completed screening uptake.

Overall, screening uptake was higher in the intervention group than control participants, at 26.3% vs 17.4%, respectively (relative risk, 1.51).

Intervention participants were also more likely than controls to have a positive test result (relative risk, 1.49) and to receive treatment (relative risk, 1.70).

The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for increased screening uptake, defined as the incremental difference in cost between the study groups divided by the difference in the number of participants completing screening within 6 months, ranged from $85.84 per additional completed screening to $146.29, depending on the health system and test considered.

In terms of willingness-to-pay (WTP) thresholds for each additional completed screening, the team found that home-based screening achieved a 90% probability of cost-effectiveness, at a WTP of just $148 if the participant's last Pap test was between 3.4 and 5.0 years before randomization.

A 90% probability of cost-effectiveness was also achieved at a WTP of $198 among participants aged 50-64 years, a threshold that was lower than that among other age groups.

At a WTP threshold of over $350, the intervention was considered to have 100% probability of being cost-effective in all age groups.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Winer reports a relationship with the National Cancer Institute outside of the submitted work, as do several other authors.

JAMA Network Open. Published online March 22, 2023. Full text

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